• Wider net cast in hunt for education chief
     | June 24,2013

    MONTPELIER — A committee spearheading the search for the state’s next secretary of education is hoping interest in the position spikes before the deadline for submitting applications passes next week.

    As of Friday, the state had received fewer than 10 applications for Vermont’s top education position. Stephan Morse, chairman of the Vermont State Board of Education and a member of the four-person search committee, said he hopes to see a surge in resumes prior to the June 28 deadline.

    The job opening was posted in mid-May.

    “The numbers are not overwhelming at this point, but hopefully things will load up on us here at the end,” Morse said Friday. “Typically what happens in something like this is the bulk of the applications come in during the last week.”

    Lawmakers transformed the education bureaucracy in Vermont in 2012 by passing legislation that gave the governor heightened influence over statewide school policy. The education chief was formerly a commissioner-level position, appointed by, and answerable to, the 11-member Board of Education.

    The 2012 law turned the job into a secretary-level position appointed by the governor, a move that will allow Vermont’s top elected official to more effectively impose his or her agenda for public education.

    The search for the state’s first education secretary ended somewhat anticlimactically in January, when Shumlin, citing the need for “continuity,” tapped then-Commissioner Armando Vilaseca to serve a short-term stint. Morse said the state received about 25 applications during the first search.

    Morse said he worries the $125,000-per-year salary may not be enough to woo top prospects to a job that is only as secure as the sitting governor’s electoral chances.

    “I’m a little concerned whether that’s enough to excite someone who’s located elsewhere in the country to make a big move to Vermont,” Morse said.

    Morse said the search committee this time cast a wider net outside Vermont, buying up ad space in national education publications as well as The Boston Globe. Last year, the search committee, which will winnow the applications down to three candidates for Gov. Peter Shumlin’s review, advertised in all Vermont newspapers. This year, Morse said, they ran ads in just one.

    “And we’re working very closely with what I call our education partners — the School Board Association, NEA, Principals Association — and asking them to reach out nationally to generate interest,” Morse said. “So it’s got a little more of a national focus this time around, as opposed to the last time where there was a local emphasis.”

    Morse said he’s been in regular contact with top Shumlin aides, and that Shumlin himself is spreading word nationally about Vermont’s search for an education leader.

    “Basically we’re looking for a creative, experienced educator, someone with at least a master’s if not a doctorate, somebody who has a record of not only managing well but being able to work with all the various players in the educational community,” Morse said. “And I guess the emphasis is really on some creative leadership.”

    Morse said the search committee wants to select the final three candidates by Sept. 1. He said, however, that if the applicant pool is too slim by Friday, the search committee may extend the deadline.



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