McNulty steps down as education commissioner

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(Host) Vermont’s education commissioner announced his resignation Tuesday after just over a year on the job. Ray McNulty says he received an offer that he couldn’t pass up. So he’s leaving to work on education issues for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Sitting in front of a wall covered with awards and finger paintings, McNulty says his decision to leave a job he loves is a bittersweet one.

He stressed that he isn’t stepping down because of political changes in Montpelier. Vermont’s education commissioner is appointed by the state Board of Education, but there’s an effort under way to give the governor the power to choose the commissioner.

(McNulty) “I want to be really clear. There is nothing behind all of this. I know that the current governor, as Governor Dean as well, wish to appoint the commissioner of education. They all do. That has nothing to do with it.”

(Zind) The 51-year-old McNulty has spent his career in Vermont schools – as a teacher, a principal, a superintendent and commissioner.

The Gates Foundation has an endowment of $24 billion. The foundation’s work in education focuses on creating smaller urban high schools and improving the graduation rate among low income and minority students. McNulty says he’s looking forward to finding solutions to education problems without worrying about the political obstacles.

(McNulty) “I grew up in the inner city of Boston. My mom, as I’ve told many people, went to the sixth grade. I was educated in the city public schools. Education in the cities of our country right now is really struggling and this is an opportunity to give something back that is so important to me.”

(Zind) In a statement released Tuesday, the chairman of the State Board of Education said the board will fill McNulty’s position as soon as possible. In the meantime, an interim commissioner will be appointed.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Montpelier.

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