Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Board announces names of Commissioner of Education candidates

The Journal World reports that the list includes:
  • Bob Corkins, executive director of Kansas Legislative Education and Research Inc., a recent opponent of increasing funding to the schools
  • Milt Dougherty, superintendent of the Little River school district
  • Daniel Harden, an education professor at Washburn University
  • Alexa Posny, deputy commissioner of education
  • Kurt Steinhaus, deputy cabinet secretary of education in New Mexico
Dr. Posny is well regarded by many people in the Kansas education community. She's a very competent individual with good contacts in the US Dept. of Education, which made it possible to get some rules rewritten to make special ed classes easier to arrange in Kansas. My sources indicate that she did yeoman's work (yeowoman's?) to get the feds to leave lots of leeway to Kansas and other states that are performing pretty well.

One has to guess that Corkins is the reason the Board objected to emphasizing educational experience rather than political background. There's no evidence of any formal experience in education itself.

Daniel Harden's webpage is a little kooky, but not necessarily in a bad way. Anyone who gets his news from the National Review and the Washington Times isn't afraid to wear his politics on his sleeve, but I'm told that honest conservatives exist. His CV has no published papers (though it's possible he's just omitted them, that's not the standard format for a CV, even on the Washburn faculty pages), so his exact areas of expertise are unclear, but he has a clear interest in school administration. His webpage doesn't make me love him, and it doesn't lay out a clear educational agenda, just the political agenda. I wonder if this is another case where emphasizing educational background would harm the candidate's NASBE score. This profile in the Capital-Journal really doesn't help me.

This interview with Steinhaus shows him to be engaged in the movement to incorporate technology into the classroom. I'm a fan of Bill Richardson, and if he likes Steinhaus, more power to him. A quick Googling doesn't show a political agenda, but lots of work to reach out to students from Pre-K to college. Here's a quick biography.

Milt Dougherty is clearly also engaged in the computerized classroom project, a worthy goal, I guess. I don't know enough background to know what the range of opinions are on the cost-benefit analysis of the high-tech classroom, so I won't say that it's good or bad. I think it marks him as a good administrator and a forward thinker. I like this, but I bet everyone on the list would say the same:

CDE: HOW ARE YOU DEALING WITH THE STANDARDS SET BY NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND? ARE YOU USING TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS TO DEAL WITH IT?

DOUGHERTY: I do some outside consulting with other districts. What frustrates me when I work with other schools, particularly the larger schools, is that they focus on meeting state or national standards. We tell our staff that is not what we're here for. If we do the right things, the standards will take care of themselves.
He's also involved in Kan-Ed, a collaboration and technology project of the state of Kansas and the Board of Regents.

Corkins is pro-vouchers (a bad idea), and a quick Googling doesn't put him in the midst of education. There are articles about 401(k) plans and a host of other conservative bugaboos, but education seems to be one issue out of many to him. I deem him unqualified.

I think Posny, Steinhaus and Dougherty are all well-qualified, and I need to find out more about Harden before I decide whether he's more politics or more education. I lean toward the latter.

If you care, the Board will be conducting interviews in the next few days, so contact your Board member sooner than later if you have an opinion.

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