Oregon Looks for Education Czar

By: - December 7, 2011 12:00 am

Wanted: visionary education leader to connect every stage of public education in Oregon.

The Oregon Educational Investment Board, created earlier this year and chaired by Governor John Kitzhaber, released a preliminary job description last week detailing requirements for its new chief educational officer. The 13-person board is looking for a “change agent,” with expertise in education and experience running “large and complex organizations.”

The chief officer would be the “quarterback” leading other education officials to make changes, Kitzhaber told The (Portland) Oregonian , but would not oversee those leaders after changes have been made.

If the board’s plan is approved by the legislature, Oregon will become the sixth state with a leader keeping an eye on every level of education, according to the Council of Chief State School Officers, joining Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, New York and Pennsylvania.

The state is retaining a headhunting firm to recruit a candidate and expects to pay a salary of about $280,000, TheOregonian reported. The governor said he hopes to hire someone by April.

But finding that candidate might not be easy.

“It’s a unique skill set,” says Chris Minnich, senior membership director at the school officers council. The challenge for whoever is hired for the position, he says, will be to bridge the gap that often exists in states between leaders in higher education and K-12. “Ultimately, it’s all about how you communicate.”

Kitzhaber, a Democrat, told The

Oregonian he hopes the new chief officer will help streamline, and potentially eliminate, the boards that govern education from pre-K through college to improve efficiency and better align each level.

Legislation approved this past spring formalized Kitzhaber’s goals that by 2025, at least 80 percent of Oregon’s adults will have attained at least an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Only 48 percent of Oregon adults currently meet that goal, according to data collected by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.

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