Archive for Wednesday, January 17, 2007

State board battles image problem

State board battles image problem in search for new commissioner

January 17, 2007

Controversy surrounding the State Board of Education may hinder its search for a new education commissioner, a consultant said Monday.

But Kansas also enjoys a solid national reputation in the education field and that should help, said Brenda Welburn, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education.

Welburn met with the State Board of Education to establish ground rules in the search for a commissioner to replace Bob Corkins, who resigned in November after a stormy year on the job.

Alexandria, Va.-based NASBE has been contracted by the Kansas board for a maximum of $45,000 to help in the hiring process.

A majority on the newly formed board made clear it would seek someone with an education background who has had experience running an education agency and improving student performance.

Corkins, hired by a 6-4 conservative majority in 2005, had no background in education. He left the $140,000-a-year job after last year's elections produced a 6-4 moderate majority.

Welburn said some potential applicants may back off applying for the vacancy because of the conservative-moderate seesaw for control of the board after nearly every election cycle.

"Will this job be secure? People want to know," she said.

In addition, the constant battle over evolution in science standards, which has drawn international attention, has "tainted" the state's reputation a little, she said.

But, she said, overall, "Kansas historically has been seen as a state that values education and does a good job."

In a wide-ranging discussion, board members said they wanted a new commissioner with a background in education with proven results.

"It's a deal-breaker for me. They need to know the education field inside and out," said Board Chairman Bill Wagnon, a Democrat from Topeka.

Board members said their primary concerns were closing the student achievement gap, improving vocational-technical education, providing leadership and restoring the credibility of the board.

They also said they wanted someone who could communicate well with the Legislature and educators, and address the teacher shortage

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