Archive for Thursday, November 30, 2006

Board member says Corkins’ departure a good thing

November 30, 2006

The resignation of the state commissioner of education has a local state board member looking forward to the future. Bob Corkins submitted his letter of resignation to the board on Nov. 21, and board member Janet Waugh says it's a good start.

"This way we can start the year on a positive note," Waugh said.

The board's makeup shifted from a 6-4 conservative majority in the Nov. 7 election to a 6-4 majority of moderates.

Waugh said one of the new year's first acts by the board would have been Corkins' ouster.

"I'm just looking forward to rebuilding the department, to returning the state board to one that is respected not only by the education community, but by the citizens of the state," Waugh said.

Waugh, who will begin her third term on the state board in January, said one of the three issues she'd been looking forward to taking action on was the selection last year of Corkins, who had no education experience, to the position of commissioner of education.

Corkins, an attorney from Lawrence, had previously operated two think tanks, lobbied for school voucher programs and against increases in education funding.

As commissioner, Corkins reorganized the department, including the creation of a School Innovation Division, and pushed for school vouchers and charter schools.

The other two issues Waugh said were her priorities were the science standards adopted last year by the current board, which define science to allow supernatural explanations of natural phenomena, and an "opt-in" policy for sex education.

She said she was looking forward to "removing us as the butt of late-night talk show jokes" and "no longer being a laughingstock."

Despite Waugh's relief that Corkins is gone, she joined two other board members in voting against accepting Corkins' resignation. That's because she objected to the "with regret" wording in the board's acceptance statement.

Waugh said the search for a new commissioner would begin in either December or January, with advertisements soliciting applications for the post in national education publications. The National Association of School Boards might conduct the search, Waugh said, which would be her preference.

Waugh said she had a basic requirement for candidates:"I personally want someone with an education background. That's a top priorty. I think that's a top priority with the public."

Waugh said there may be some other changes coming when the board convenes in January.

"I personally will probably ask for a review of the minutes to see what other issues were 6-4 votes," Waugh said.

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