Richard Cate named education commissioner

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(Host) When the Vermont Board of Education chose Richard Cate as the new education commissioner, it chose a candidate with local roots. Cate is currently the deputy commissioner in New York State.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Cate is well known to many education and government leaders in Vermont. He’s a former city manger in Barre and he served as the head of the Vermont Superintendents Association for eight years. The new commissioner is a Vermont native who graduated from the University of Vermont.

Cate says one of the biggest challenges facing the state is providing a quality education for all students at an affordable price:

(Cate) “It’s a balancing act that goes on in every state in this country and Vermont is no different. Obviously there’s been a lot of discussion about how do you get there, how do you get more efficient and at the same time how do you get a better outcome for all the students. I think there are many other pieces, but I think they all feed back into that one scenario.”

(Kinzel) Cate says he generally supports the concept of public school choice but he says there are a lot of questions that need to be answered before Vermont can implement a statewide public school choice system:

(Cate) “They may want to go to South Burlington from Burlington, but who’s going to pay the tab to add on to the classrooms in South Burlington so that they can go there? How do they get there, transportation issues. So there’s a lot of things around it. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with choice but there are questions. The third question is how do you make sure that the students that are left in the school that the particular students have decided to choose out of – how do you ensure that those who remain get a high quality education?”

(Kinzel) The Vermont School Board Association is praising Cate’s appointment. Executive Director Edie Miller says the state needs a commissioner who has strong administrative skills. Miller participated in a focus group last week with Cate and she’s impressed with his approach to education in Vermont:

(Miller) “I think we’ve got a good direction. We’ve been going in a good direction since Marc Hull was commissioner, with our standards with our assessments. I think that it may be the time now that we need somebody who’s a strong manager and implementer and can help form those priorities. That will allow us to really move ahead as we have been progressing, but move ahead really well.”

(Kinzel) Cate will assume his new post at the beginning of November.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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