Archive for Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Corkins resigns education post

Ex-commissioner to get 30-day $11K severance

November 22, 2006


— The State Board of Education will begin a national search in January to replace Bob Corkins, who resigned as education commissioner effective Wednesday.

"I want someone who can return the department to a high degree of professionalism," said Bill Wagnon, a Topeka Democrat who is expected to be elected chairman of the state board when moderates take control of the board on Jan. 8.

"I want someone who has a proven track record with improving schools and who understands schools, can manage and lead a large state bureaucracy and can get along with the board members," Wagnon said Wednesday after a special meeting of the state board.

Steve Abrams, state board chairman, told reporters he received a letter of resignation from Corkins on Monday and then called Wednesday's meeting to deal with the matter in a nonpublic executive session.

Abrams, of Arkansas City, and John Bacon, of Olathe, a fellow conservative Republican on the board, were the only two board members physically at the meeting at the State Education Building in Topeka. Wagnon and the seven other board members took part via a telephone conference call.

After going into closed session for about 15 minutes, Abrams opened the meeting back up to the public and read Corkins' resignation letter, which stated that he would leave his position effective at the end of the business day Wednesday.

Corkins wrote, "My gratitude for the opportunity you've given me this past year is profound.

"I have approached every day with a solemn respect for the duties of this role. 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 sincerely wish everyone well."

Severance, interim

As expected, Bob Corkins resigns today

Today, Bob Corkins resigned from his position as Kansas State Board of Education Commissioner. Enlarge video

On a 7-3 vote, the board accepted Corkins' resignation and gave him a 30-day severance package that Abrams estimated to be about $11,000.

His annual salary had been about $140,000.

Corkins led an agency with more than 200 employees and a $3 billion budget, mostly aid to local school districts. He was among five finalists for the job that included Alexa Posny, deputy education commissioner who left to become director of the federal Office for Special Education Programs.

Those voting "no" on his resignation and severance were Janet Waugh, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kan., Carol Rupe, a Wichita moderate Republican, and Connie Morris, a conservative Republican from St. Francis.

As part of that vote, the board appointed Dale Dennis as interim education commissioner. Dennis, who is deputy education commissioner for finance, has been with the Department of Education for about four decades and is highly regarded, Wagnon said.

The state board's conservative Republican majority, which hired Corkins in October 2005, will end when moderate Republicans Sally Cauble, of Liberal, and Jana Shaver, of Independence, take their seats Jan. 8, giving the moderates a 6-4 majority.

Waugh, Wagnon and Rupe, all moderates, congratulated Abrams, a conservative, on how he handled Corkins' resignation.

"I believe we need to work in a genteel manner," said Kathy Martin, a conservative Republican from Clay Center.

Abrams told reporters after the meeting that Corkins had cleared out his office earlier this week. Corkins was not at the meeting and could not be reached at his home.

Under fire

Corkins received criticism from Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and many legislators and educators across the state.

That's partly because of his push for vouchers and for charter schools, which would be freed from some of the regulations imposed on other public schools, and partly because of his lack of experience.

A lawyer from Lawrence, Corkins is Kansas' first top school administrator in 80 years who has not previously served as a superintendent. He had operated two small think tanks, lobbied against increases in education funding and championed school voucher programs.

Under the board's conservative majority, Corkins led a reorganization of the department.

Abrams said he did not ask for Corkins' resignation.

"I like what he's done for education. I like what he's done within the department. I think he's done a great job. He's been a very good manager," Abrams said.

Wagnon, who had voted against hiring Corkins in 2005, said, "I'm looking for a different kind of commissioner than the kind of commissioner that Bob Corkins exhibited."

Wagnon said other members of the state board have told him they would like a comprehensive national search. He said they would work very closely with Brenda Welburn, who is the executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education.

Lawrence reaction

Reaction from Lawrence public schools officials was swift following Corkins' resignation.

Rich Minder, a Lawrence school board member, said he wasn't surprised.

"The poor guy was in a tough spot, at the mercy of the board and the electorate," Minder said. "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."

Another Lawrence school board member, Craig Grant, said: "I'm pleased that he saw the writing on the wall. His decision can get board members started looking for a new commissioner. It's a positive as far as I'm concerned."

Lawrence Superintendent Randy Weseman said: "I'm assuming he saw the writing on the wall. It was probably a prudent move on his part."

6News reporter Deanna Richards and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Richard Heckler 11 years, 2 months ago

None to soon and a big adios to Connie "the money thief" Morris.

lunacydetector 11 years, 2 months ago

when will the schools stop asking for money, money, money? when is enough, enough? never? i am so sick of hearing about the poor, poor schools bullsh*t.

so kansas has swung to the left just as lawrence will swing to the right in the coming election.

BrianR 11 years, 2 months ago

Where are schools suppposed to get money, idiot?

Where do private schools get money?

If the public doesn't educate kids, no one will and only the wealthy will go to school, is that what you want?

Frank Smith 11 years, 2 months ago

CORKINS: "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 sincerely wish everyone well."

ABRAMS: "I like what he's done for education. I like what he's done within the department. I think he's done a great job. He's been a very good manager.

PRESIDENT KATRINA: "You're doing a great job, Brownie."

road_to_nowhere 11 years, 2 months ago

who is this Alexa Posny, and is their any chance she can come back and take the commisioner's job?

Kathy Theis-Getto 11 years, 2 months ago

Posny was the Deputy Commissioner in charge of implementing legislation for KSDE. Prior to that, she was the state director of special ed. She is now the Director of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Ed. Why would she come back?

cellogrl 11 years, 2 months ago

LunacyDetector - as a teacher, I can tell you how greatly underfunded we are in the schools. I don't work in Lawrence, but in a district close to Lawrence and I must say that we are GREATLY underfunded. The classroom teachers get only $250 a year to work with for materials in their rooms and that is not nearly enough. We also just got a raise, but that only made it a little easier for me to make my car payment and not be TOTALLY broke by the end of the month. I end up with about $20 in my account when the next paycheck rolls around. Now also, please do keep in mind that I am a young teacher and I'm still paying off college, but still... believe me. The money boost is needed and I'm sure that you wouldn't take such a crappy attitude toward it if you worked in education.

PeteJayhawk 11 years, 2 months ago

Cellogrl...fiddlesticks to your "educations". That's what good Christian parents are for - to homeschool their kids to read the Good Book. What more do you need? History, science, literature...the Good Book has it all, and directly from G-d to boot!

person184 11 years, 2 months ago

Cellogrl, trust me, we don't want lunacy in education.

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