Who Is In Charge

Garcia gets big education portfolio

See bottom of this story for 9News video of Garcia’s inauguration speech

Updated – Within hours of his inauguration Tuesday morning, it seemed clear that Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia would be the Hickenlooper administration’s go-to person on education policy.

Late Monday afternoon, Gov. John Hickenlooper nominated Garcia to be director of the Department of Higher Education, pending consultation with the attorney general and legislative leaders about an elected official serving as a department head.

Joe Garcia
Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia speaks at inauguration on Jan. 11, 2011. (Courtesy 9News)

At midday Tuesday, during a luncheon for students who participated in an inauguration essay contest, Hickenlooper unveiled an executive order creating a new Education Leadership Council.

Where will the council be located? In the lieutenant governor’s office.

Who will chair it? Joe Garcia.

Ever since Hickenlooper chose Garcia as his running mate last year, there’s been widespread speculation – even an assumption – in education circles that Garcia would play a key role on the issue in a new administration.

Such talk also was prompted by the fact that Gov. Bill Ritter made Barbara O’Brien, his lieutenant governor and former head of the Colorado Children’s Campaign, the point person for education, including such initiatives as the P-20 Education Coordinating Council and the quest for Race to the Top funds.

A Harvard-educated lawyer, Garcia has been president of Colorado State University-Pueblo and of Pikes Peak Community College. He held a cabinet job – director of the Department of Regulatory Agencies – during the administration of Democratic Gov. Roy Romer. Farther back in his past, Garcia was legal counsel to the Colorado Springs District 11 school board.

Garcia also served with O’Brien as a co-chair of the P-20 council, which was most active in the first years of Ritter’s administration and whose work lead to the 2008 Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids legislation. The Education Leadership Council created by Hickenlooper Tuesday is the successor to Ritter’s group.

A look at the new council

The executive order reads, “To deliver on the collective promise of the state’s recent education reforms and continue the cross-system dialogue that recently facilitated broad agreement on the direction of the future and functions of the state’s education systems, it is imperative that the Office of the Governor continues to provide a meaningful forum through which the state’s leadership can examine the current status of education policies, analyze the systems’ near-term opportunities and challenges, and make recommendations to the Governor, General Assembly, and governing boards regarding potential long-term improvements to the state’s education systems that facilitate the goals of closing achievement gaps in schools, reducing the high school dropout rate, and dramatically increasing the number of postsecondary degrees and certificates earned by the state’s citizens.”

Joe Garcia and John Hickenlooper
Democratic lieutenant governor hopeful Joe Garcia (left) and gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper presented their education proposals Aug. 30, 2010.

The council is to have at least 18 members, including Garcia, the commissioner of education, the chairs of the State Board of Education and Colorado Commission on Higher Education, the chairs of the House and Senate education committees, the executive director of the Early Childhood leadership commission and the director of the Department of Health and Human Services. (Reggie Bicha, a Wisconsin state official, has been nominated for that post.) Those are all busy people, and, as is usual, the executive order says “designees” may fill the slots.

The council is also to include “at least” one school board member, superintendent or principal, teacher, charter school administrator, community college administrator, four-year college administrator, business representative and infant development specialist. The council will be allowed to accept private donations to cover expenses. (Read the full executive order here.)

In a statement Monday on the DHE job, Hickenlooper said, “Joe Garcia is in a unique position to wear two hats in state government. He is a known leader with tremendous expertise in education. He also understands the challenges facing higher education because he’s led a community college and a university. Allowing Garcia to serve in two roles will save money and serve the taxpayers of Colorado without compromising the work of the lieutenant governor’s office or the Department of Higher Education.”

The statement did add, “While it’s unclear whether legislation may be necessary, Hickenlooper is working with leaders in the General Assembly and the attorney general to clarify that the lieutenant governor can concurrently serve in a cabinet position if appointed and confirmed by the Senate.”

The director of DHE supervises a department that has various regulatory, data-gathering and promotional duties, and he also serves as the chief staff person for the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, whose members are appointed by the governor. While the commission has some regulatory powers, such as approving tuition plans, Colorado’s highly decentralized higher ed system gives broad powers and independence to institutional presidents and boards of trustees.

Rico Munn
Rico Munn, former director of the Department of Higher Education

The agency has been somewhat of a revolving door in recent years. Ritter had two higher ed directors – David Skaggs and Rico Munn – and there also were two directors during the latter part of Republican Gov. Bill Owens’ administration.

Some commission members have complained that the shifting cast of directors has made it difficult to establish a clear strategic direction for the commission.

The citizens’ panel that drafted the recent higher ed strategic plan debated the issue of whether the director should be appointed by the governor or by the commission, which had that power in the past. But the panel settled on a recommendation that the governor nominate the director after consultation with the commission. (Read the higher ed strategic plan.)

The commission, armed with new powers conferred by the 2010 higher ed tuition flexibility law and the recommendations of the strategic planning panel, seems to be moving toward a more active role in higher ed policymaking. That’s a direction not welcomed by some college presidents.

So Garcia’s becoming director of DHE would put the Hickenlooper administration directly in the middle of the often-tricky politics of Colorado higher ed.

Higher ed leaders endorse Garcia

But, Hickenlooper apparently touched a lot of bases before naming Garcia to the DHE post. The news release announcing the move included endorsements from Bob Schaffer, chair of the SBE; CSU Chancellor Joe Black, Garcia’s former boss; CU President Bruce Benson, who worked with Garcia on the P-20 council; Mesa State President Tim Foster; community colleges President Nancy McCallin, and CCHE Chair Jim Polsfut.

Foster, a DHE director under Owens, said, “His knowledge of state government and his collaborative nature are exactly what Colorado higher education needs today.”

Jim Polsfut
Jim Polsfut, chair of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education

Polsfut, who’ll be sitting next to Garcia at CCHE meetings, said, “I’m certainly looking forward to working with Joe Garcia in his new capacity, as Colorado faces the challenge of maintaining a high quality yet affordable system of public higher education in an environment of diminishing resources.” (News release announcing DHE appointment.)

Garcia’s role seems to be unprecedented in Colorado history. Until a constitutional change in the mid-1970s, lieutenant governors were elected independently (not on a ticket with the governor) and presided over the state Senate.

Governors Dick Lamm, Romer and Owens – each of whom served multiple terms – all had rocky relations with some of their lieutenants, most of whom received fairly minor assignments.

Colorado’s other key K-12 position, commissioner of education, is being filled by interim Commissioner Robert Hammond while the SBE conducts a search for a replacement for Dwight Jones. A new commissioner may not be named until late spring or early summer.

See this news item for what Hickenlooper and Garcia said about education in their inauguration speeches

Garcia’s speech (9News)

names are in

Ten apply for vacant seat on the Memphis school board, but six live outside of seat’s district

PHOTO: Kayleigh Skinner
Former Shelby County Board of Education Chairwoman Teresa Jones confers with then Superintendent Dorsey Hopson during a 2015 school board meeting. Jones' seat is now up for an interim appointment.

Ten people have put their name in to become the next board member of Tennessee’s largest school district.

The appointee will fill the seat Teresa Jones vacated following her recent appointment as a municipal court judge, and would serve until the term expires in August 2020, not October as previously reported.

The interim member will join the school board at a crucial time, amid the search for a new superintendent to replace Dorsey Hopson, who left the district in December. Currently, Joris Ray is serving as interim superintendent.

Jones’ district 2 serves neighborhoods including North Memphis, Binghampton, and Berclair. Chalkbeat found that six applicants live outside of the district. Shelby County Commissioner Michael Whaley said this would likely prevent them from an appointment, but the commission is seeking clarity from the state and election commission.

Whaley also said the interim appointment was extended to August 2020 because Tennessee law doesn’t specify that special elections are necessary for the school board, so the interim will finish out Jones’ term.

The county commission is scheduled to name a successor on Monday Feb. 25, a day before the school board’s meeting that month. The commission is slated to interview candidates Wednesday at 10 a.m., but Whaley said more names could be added by commissioners prior to the vote on Monday We’ve linked to their full applications below.

Applicants are:

Althea Greene

  • She is a retired teacher from Memphis City Schools and childcare supervisor with Shelby County Schools. She is currently Pastor of Real Life Ministries.

Arvelia Chambers

  • She is a senior certified pharmacy technician with Walgreens. She said she’s a “passionate aunt” of three children in Shelby County Schools.
  • Her listed address is slightly north of District 2.

Aubrey Howard

  • He works as the executive director of governmental and legislative affairs in the Shelby County Trustee’s Office. He formerly worked for the City of Memphis, and said in his application that he previously ran for school board and lost.

Charles McKinney

  • He is the Neville Frierson Bryan Chair of Africana Studies and associate professor of history at Rhodes College. He is on the board of Crosstown High Charter School, and is the father of two Shelby County Schools students.

David Brown

  • He is the executive director of digital ministry at Brown Missionary Baptist Church and graduated from  Craigmont High School.
  • His listed address is slightly east of District 2.

Erskine Gillespie

  • Gillespie previously ran for City Council district 7 but lost. He is an account manager at the Lifeblood Mid-South Regional Blood Bank. He said in his application that he was one of the first students to enter the optional schools program in the Memphis district.

Kenneth Whalum, Jr.

  • He is a pastor at The New Olivet Worship Center and previously served as a school board member for the former Memphis City Schools; he was first elected in 2006. He has vocally opposed the process behind the 2013 merger of the city school system with legacy Shelby County Schools.
  • Whalum ran against school board member Kevin Woods in 2012 and lost.
  • His listed address is near the University of Memphis, not in District 2.

Makeda Porter-Carr

  • She is a research administrator at St. Jude Research Hospital.
  • Her listed address is in southeast Memphis, not in District 2.

Michael Hoffmeyer Sr.

  • He is the director of the University of Memphis’ Crews Center for Entrepreneurship in which he works with college and high school students. He graduated from Craigmont High School.
  • His listed address is slightly north of District 2.

Tyree Daniels

  • He helped found Memphis College Prep charter school. He lost to Jones in a school board race in 2012. Daniels is now a part of Duncan-Williams Inc. — the firm handling public financing for the project Union Row.
  • His listed address is in east Memphis, not in District 2.

Raise your voice

Memphis, what do you want in your next school superintendent?

PHOTO: Kyle Kurlick for Chalkbeat

Tennessee’s largest school district needs a permanent leader. What kind of superintendent do you think Shelby County Schools should be looking for?

Now is the chance to raise your voice. The school board is in the thick of finalizing a national search and is taking bids from search firms. Board members say they want a leader to replace former superintendent Dorsey Hopson in place within 18 months. They have also said they want community input in the process, though board members haven’t specified what that will look like. In the interim, career Memphis educator Joris Ray is at the helm.

Let us know what you think is most important in the next superintendent.  Select responses will be published.