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Florida’s New Education Commissioner Chosen

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(Photo Credit: myfl.gov) Gerard Robinson

(Photo Credit: myfl.gov) Gerard Robinson

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TAMPA (CBS4) – Florida has a new state education commissioner. Virginia’s secretary of education, Gerard Robinson, was picked Tuesday to run Florida’s public school system by the Florida Board of Education.

He is replacing Eric Smith, who resigned as Education Commissioner on June 10.

Robinson is a big supporter of charter schools and voucher programs and used to be the head of the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

As education commissioner, he will oversee hundreds of Department of Education employees, and 3,700 schools that serve 2.6 million school children.

In picking Robinson, the six-member State Board of Education is betting on someone who has never led a large organization before. Robinson is in charge of a small staff of four as Virginia’s secretary of education. Virginia has a state superintendent that has duties similar to Florida’s education commissioner. Though Robinson acknowledged he has not managed a large organization during his interview Monday, he said he intends to hire “strong chiefs of staff and support staff.”

Robinson will likely carry forward many of the same education reform priorities that began under former Gov. Jeb Bush, though will add his own emphasis on dropout prevention efforts aimed toward minorities, which he said was a priority of his during his interview.

Governor Rick Scott commended the State Board of Education for selecting Robinson.

“Gerard brings to Florida a long and remarkable set of accomplishments in innovation and proven results that will help us continue putting children first, improving our schools and ensuring Florida has the best-educated workforce,” Scott said in a statement. “His leadership as an experienced education reformer and advocate for school choice and closing the achievement gap is exactly what Florida needs to reach the next level of education reforms that will benefit both our students and the businesses of our state.”

“Florida needs his energy, passion and leadership,” board chairman Kathleen Shanahan said in an e-mail. She was absent from Tuesday’s meeting because of a family emergency.

Board member John R. Padget said he was impressed that Robinson started at a community college and then went on to pursue a university education. That will allow him to relate to students with a wide range of education potential and “connect the dots” throughout the state system, Padget said.

Robinson beat out four other finalists for the job of education commissioner, including someone who had been education commissioner for New Jersey and an internal candidate from the Department of Education.

It was not immediately clear when Robinson would begin his new job.

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