Topeka Following a closed-door meeting, the Kansas Board of Education accepted the resignation of Education Commmissioner Bob Corkins effective today.
On a 7-3 vote, the board accepted Corkins' resignation letter and provided him with a one-month severence package that includes salary and benefits. Board Chairman Steve Abrams said the severence package amounted to about $11,000.
The board also approved the appointment of Dale Dennis, deputy commissioner of finance, as the interim education commissioner.
Corkins submitted his letter to the board on Monday and Abrams said that Corkins has cleaned out his Topeka office. His letter was first made public today.
"My gratitude for the opportunity you've given me the past year has been profound and I have approached every day with a solemn respect for the duties of this role," Corkins wrote to the board. "Many substantial decisions were required during my term and I have not had a moment's regret over any. Much of my confidence has been due to sound counsel from my colleagues at the agency and to the positive influence of Chairman Abrams' wisdom."
"I like what he's done for education," Abrams said of Corkins.
The state board's conservative Republican majority, which hired Corkins, will end when moderate Republicans Sally Cauble, of Liberal, and Jana Shaver, of Independence, take their seats, giving the moderates a 6-4 majority.
Reaction to the news was swift from school board members and administrators in Lawrence.
"I'm assuming he saw the writing on the wall. It was probably a prudent move on his part," said Lawrence Schools Superintendent Randy Weseman.
"Well, I'm not surprised," said Lawrence board member Rich Minder. "The poor guy was in a tough spot, at the mercy of the board and the electorate. As I'm sure you know, I would have preferred the board hire someone who advocated more positively for funding public schools and someone who had more educational experience in the first place."
"His decision can get board members started looking for a new commissioner," said board member Craig Grant. "It's a positive as far as I'm concerned."
School board member Cindy Yulich said: "I guess I'm surprised he resigned but it's probably for the best. Now the board can move forward and do what's best for all the kids in Kansas."
Corkins' major focus has been on pushing for school vouchers and charter schools.
Corkins, an attorney from Lawrence, is Kansas' first top school administrator in more than 80 years not to have served as a local superintendent first. He previously operated two small think tanks, lobbied against large increases in education funding and championed school voucher programs.
As commissioner, he led a reorganization of the department, creating a School Innovation Division, and has continued to support increasing the number of charter schools, which are freed from some state regulations to encourage innovation.
Board member Janet Waugh of Kansas City said that with Corkins, "who is basically anti-schools," at the helm, the public image of the state's public education system had been hurt.