Board of Education names acting Commissioner

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There’s going to be new leadership at the Vermont Department of Education.

The State Board of Education has named Bill Talbot as the acting Commissioner of the Department.

Talbot will replace outgoing commissioner Richard Cate, who’s stepping down to take a position at UVM.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) For the last ten years, Talbot has served as the chief financial officer at the Department of Education and prior to that he represented Monkton in the Vermont House for 4 terms.

Before serving in the Legislature, Talbot taught industrial arts and ran an alternative education program in the Hinesburg school district.

The Vermont Board of Education will launch a national search for a new commissioner. During this period, Talbot says his primary focus is to move forward on a plan to better prepare students for the challenges of the future:

(Talbot) "Number one stay the course the state Board has a vision and mission revolving around student centered 21st century learning with what they call transformation which is working with school districts facilitating and enabling them to move in that direction removing barriers obstacles regulations that might get in the way."

Talbot says he’s not sure if he’ll apply for the permanent commissioner’s position but he’s going to take a close look at it:

(Talbot) "This is a new role for me I want to get my feet on the ground I want to see what it’s like I think I bring some things to this job but I’m just going to keep an open mind on whether I’m part of that."

The search for a new commissioner could become complicated because Governor Jim Douglas and a number of lawmakers want to change the process of selecting a commissioner.

Right now the state Board of Education interviews candidates and submits a list of qualified applicants to the governor who makes the final selection.

But the Senate passed a bill this year that allows the Governor to make the appointment directly and the legislation also eliminates the state Board of Education. The House didn’t act on this plan in the final weeks of the session but it’s likely that the legislation will re-emerge next year.

Talbot says he opposes the bill because he thinks it will further politicize the discussion of educational issues:

(Talbot) "A citizen board – if it’s smart – pays attention to the experts, to the people who are close to it and is advised by that but I think there’s a lot of value in citizens boards and I think you can’t totally separate politics from anything but this gives it some distance from the political process that I think is beneficial."

Talbot will officially become acting commissioner on June 23rd.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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