With Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson resigning from his job as the leader of education in our great sunshine state, it looks as if public education has a monster job opening. Who would be better to list qualifications for this pivotal position than Florida teachers?
So we’ve been brainstorming what we want in a candidate. Below is a wish list of characteristics and traits that I’ve compiled after conversations with Katy Courtelyou and other teacher leaders in the Hillsborough County New Millennium Initiative (NMI). We need and request a commissioner:
1. Who has relevant and recent teaching experience. In a public school. Who understands the complexities of learning and teaching and has done it successfully.
2. Who is not afraid to dive “into the trenches” and is visible out of the office and in our classrooms.
3. Who has chutzpah. Someone with a backbone to stand up for students, regardless of what is popular or what a political party might say. Who knows and understands that teachers are the most valuable assets we have in propelling public education forward. Someone who sees teachers as the solution, not the problem (Can I get an “amen?”).
4. Who believes in the power of PUBLIC education, through-and-through.
5. Who is an active listener and not a micromanager. Who surrounds him/herself with really bright, hard-working people and trusts their insights and decisions.
6. Who is open-minded. Out-of-the-box. Innovative. Who has the courage to imagine an entirely different profession as we know it today and the tenacity to set those visions into action, with the grit and tenacity to see them through.
7. Who has a deep understanding of education in our state. We want someone home-grown who has lived and breathed the system he or she will be leading.
8. Who has communication skills that seek input from ALL stakeholders and demonstrate inclusion of that input into program goals and objectives.
9. Who has education and business experience, including school and business administration, data/research analysis, and employee management.
10. Who reaches out to teachers not just as a symbolic gesture, but as a genuine collaborative effort to craft sensible and meaningful policies. And then reaches out to them again to reflect on how the policies are working.
11. Who will connect meaningfully with parents, teachers, and students on an entirely new level.
12. Who, if he or she has children, is vested enough in the system to send them to public schools. Enough said.
13. Who is inspiring. Who can motivate us. Support us. Lead us forward.
Past commissioners have possessed bits and pieces of this desired list, but we believe all of these characteristics are critical to move Florida forward in a substantial way.
Could we find someone who meets these criteria in a state where the position is political and appointed? We think it’s possible and urge the powers-that-be to take our suggestions seriously.
After all, who better to determine criteria for an education commissioner than accomplished teachers who serve Florida’s children every day?