Search for a new Florida education commissioner extended two months

Two more months. As expected, the Florida Board of Education decided this morning to extend the search for a new education commissioner. The board discussed the issue for about three minutes before voting unanimously in favor of a new timeline.

The original deadline for applications, Sept. 27, had drawn 16 candidates through last Friday, but no big names in ed reform and school choice circles. The new deadline is Nov. 30.

Several board members made brief reference this morning to candidate quality.

If the candidates are not “up to the level we have set – which is a very high level – I would like to have the flexibility to, if needed, to extend the deadline (again) or take other appropriate action,” said board member Roberto Martinez of Miami. “I assume that would be implicit in all this.”

Yes, said board chair Gary Chartrand: “We’re not going to lower our standards here. And Bob, if we’re not satisfied with the results, at that point in time, I think we certainly have the right to push that date out further.”

The new timeline:

Dec. 1: The search firm, Ray and Associates, will contact each board member individually to discuss the recommendations for finalists.

Dec. 4: The names of the finalists will be made public.

Dec. 11: The finalists will be interviewed by the board at a public meeting in Tampa.

Dec. 12: The board is scheduled to vote on a new commissioner.

The board is seeking to replace Gerard Robinson, a former head of the Black Alliance for Educational Options and former education commissioner in Virginia. He left the Florida post in August after a year on the job.

A similar search process played out last year. Back then, the board was seeking to replace former Commissioner Eric J. Smith, who was forced out by Gov. Rick Scott. The first batch of applicants was widely viewed as mediocre, leading to an extension that culminated in the hiring of Robinson.

Florida’s education commissioner will help oversee a system that includes 2.6 million public school students and arguably the widest array of school choice options in the nation. More coverage here and here.

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at