Topeka 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, who had been hired by a 6-4 conservative majority in 2005, had no background in the education field. He left the $140,000-per-year position 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.
State board of education
- Assistance enlisted in search for new chief (01-15-07)
- State Board of Education to review sex education program in February (01-11-07)
- State board to revisit science, sex education (01-09-07)
- Board seeks commissioner with vision (01-07-07)
- Corkins replacement likely to have school credentials (12-04-06)
- Corkins resigns education post (11-22-06)
"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 helping restore credibility of the board.
They also said they wanted someone who could communicate well with the Legislature and educators, and address the teacher shortage.
Carol Rupe, a moderate Republican from Wichita, said she also wanted someone to be a "cheerleader" for education, but not someone who would allow educators to become complacent.
Kathy Martin, a conservative Republican board member from Clay Center, said she wanted the next commissioner to work on expanding charter schools and pushing for school vouchers, two agendas that Corkins fought for.
Welburn said she has set up interviews with Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, educators, legislative and business leaders to ask them what they think are the key education issues, and the skills that the next commissioner should have.
"We want this search to be very personalized and customized to the state of Kansas," she said.
The board hopes to narrow the search to three finalists by the end of March and then make a selection in April.