Archive for Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Education Commissioner DeBacker resigns

April 9, 2014, 1:47 p.m. Updated April 9, 2014, 3:24 p.m.


— Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker announced her resignation Wednesday to accept a job in the Middle East.

DeBacker, 53, said she will become an advisor to the Director General of the Abu Dhabi Education Council in the United Arab Emirates and will provide counsel to the Abu Dhabi education system. The resignation is effective May 14. Deputy Commissioner Brad Neuenswander will be interim commissioner.

“I'm really leaving my comfort zone,” DeBacker said, adding that she was born in St. Marys and has lived her entire life in eastern Kansas.

The announcement came at the end of the State Board of Education's monthly meeting in Topeka. Most of the agency's roughly 200 employees gathered in the board room to hear the announcement. And when Board Chairwoman Jana Shaver, R-Independence, called the vote to accept DeBacker's resignation, nearly all of the staff raised their hands to say no.

DeBacker has led the State Department of Education since October 2009 when she was named interim commissioner to succeed previous commissioner Alexa Posney, who left to become an Assistant Secretary of Education in the Obama administration.

Diane DeBacker

Diane DeBacker

During her time as commissioner, DeBacker led the agency through several major changes including the adoption of new curriculum standards in reading and math, science and social studies. She also led the effort to obtain a federal waiver from No Child Left Behind and replace that policy in Kansas with a new system of holding schools and districts accountable for student improvement.

She also has guided the agency in developing a new system for evaluating teachers and administrators, which was a requirement of the federal waiver, and launched the continuing effort to develop a new accreditation system that will, for the first time, accredit school districts in Kansas, rather than individual schools.

Along the way, though, she also had to deal with a state Legislature that often had very different priorities for education policy.

She has been an outspoken opponent of proposed legislation that would either repeal or defund implementation of the Common Core standards. And last year, she sought an attorney general's opinion over questions about the constitutionality of a new law that exempts certain school districts from many state laws and regulations governing public schools.

DeBacker said her experience implementing major education reforms was a big factor in helping her land her new job.

“They were looking for people who are kind of at the top of their game and that have done some reforms, so I was actually probably one of many (who were recruited),” she said.

Shaver praised DeBacker's work at the agency.

“The most important decisions this board ever has to make is in hiring the commissioner of education,” Shaver said. “And we did a good job several years ago (hiring DeBacker).”

Under the Kansas Constitution, the commissioner is chosen by the elected State Board of Education and is generally in charge of running the day-to-day operations of an agency that supervises the spending of half of all the money expended by state government.

Before being named interim commissioner, DeBacker had been Deputy Commissioner of the Division of Learning and Innovative Services within the agency.

During her 32 years in education she held a number of positions in the state department. She was previously an associate superintendent in the Shawnee Heights school district, a building principal in the Auburn-Washburn school district and an adjunct professor at Washburn University.

DeBacker earned her bachelor's degree in business education from Emporia State University in 1982. She earned a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from Washburn University in 1987 and a doctorate in educational administration and leadership from Kansas State University in 2002.

The contract to work in Abu Dhabi is for one year, she said, although she expects the assignment could last as long as three to five years. During that time, she said, she plans to return to Kansas regularly while her husband Severin remains here to be close to her parents, who both reside in a nursing home.


Jeff Plinsky 4 years, 1 month ago

Things are so bad in Kansas education that women are leaving for jobs in the middle east? Thanks Kansas Legislature!

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 1 month ago

Yep. The posts show on my account but not here,

Julius Nolan 4 years, 1 month ago

And with the latest funding fiasco by GOP, removing tenure, tax breaks for private schools and so on, you are going to see a major outflow of teachers.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 1 month ago

I believe that is their Goal. Then, they can Put Teachers in place that Teach what they want and ONLY what they want! Facts? Forget about 'em. They Have Faith and that is all they need. Just look how well Faith-over-Fact based Education has worked for them. If Ignorance is Bliss, Stupidity must be Nirvana for our GOP led Legislature!

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 1 month ago

I think that is their Goal. Then They Can Put Teachers in place that Teach what they want and ONLY what they want. Faith Based Religion worked So well for them that they want Everyone to be on their level.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 1 month ago

Sorry Julius. I tried Responding twice and the Moderators will not let my posts show.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 1 month ago

I will keep trying to respond. For some reason my posts are not Posting

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 1 month ago

Check out my responses to you and see if you can tell why they were deleted.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 1 month ago

I will just keep typing then. There! That is better. Sorry Julius. The moderators will not let my posts through. I tried 5 times to reply to your post.They are in My Response file but not posted here. I suppose losing Qualified teachers may be their goal. They can Replace those teachers with Teachers that Teach what they want only. Fact based education will be replaced by Faith Based education. It is obvious it worked SO well for them.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 1 month ago

For some reason, I cannot reply to either of you, Julius or Jeff

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 1 month ago

For some reason this page is not allowing any Replies to go through. I can not even reply to my own Post. They show up on my Record of Posts but not here and the number of posts is tallied at the top.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 1 month ago

Another interesting point about this page: The Newest posts are at the top so now you have to start at the bottom and Read Bottom to top to get any context. I checked some other pages and same thing there. It was not doing this earlier today.

Ken Lassman 4 years, 1 month ago

Let's see if this reply thing works, which it wasn't earlier. Note whether it appears above or below the comment that I'm replying to, Thomas, and whether it's indented.

Ken Lassman 4 years, 1 month ago

Replies are being rejected out of hand as well, which is just silly. I guess the new format is going to discourage actual dialogue, something that set the JW comments apart from many other newspapers.

Paul R Getto 4 years, 1 month ago

You did a fine job for all Kansans. Good luck.

James Howlette 4 years, 1 month ago

FYI - The commenting system is broken. They're showing up in inverse chronological order, and replies exist but are not showing up. So make a new post instead of replying until they fix it.

Ken Lassman 4 years, 1 month ago

Is it still broken? If it is, you gotta start thinking that this is the new format, which is sad, sad, sad.

Ken Lassman 4 years, 1 month ago

Hey, it's working again! Guess I won't totally abandon this website.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 4 years, 1 month ago

Yep! It looks like it is back to Normal. What was THAT all about. Now There are a bunch of posts showing when the Replies went Down. This Is silly. Agree with you Ken. If it was permanent, my Subscription was about to be pulled.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.