familiar face

Education department chief of staff chosen as interim commissioner, Crandall discusses sudden exit

Katy Anthes (photo by Nic Garcia).

Katy Anthes, the Colorado Department of Education’s widely respected chief of staff, was tapped Friday to temporarily lead the state agency after former Commissioner Rich Crandall’s surprise resignation a day earlier.

The State Board of Education, which met by teleconference, unanimously appointed Anthes as interim commissioner at an emergency meeting. The board also formally accepted Crandall’s resignation after initially meeting in closed session.

Anthes’ appointment represents an about-face for her. On Monday, she wrote to colleagues that she was leaving the agency after five years, joining other top staff who have announced departures recently. Anthes’ last day was supposed to be in mid-June.

Speaking to reporters after her appointment, Anthes described her earlier resignation announcement as a “personal decision” and did not elaborate. She pledged that she was ready to get to work and that the department would not skip a beat.

“I’m really honored and excited the board has the confidence in me to lead the department through this transition,” she said. “So I’m excited to get to work on this transition on Monday.”

Anthes declined to say whether she would consider applying for the position on a permanent basis. She’ll be paid at an annual rate of $225,000 a year. The board did not discuss any details of the search for a commissioner.

State officials on Friday would not release details of Crandall’s separation agreement, saying it would be made available after state board chairman Steve Durham and a representative from the state controller’s office signed the paperwork.

Crandall came in with little experience heading a large state bureaucracy but impressed board members with his business background. A former Republican lawmaker from Arizona, Crandall also served briefly as the education commissioner of Wyoming before that post was eliminated. He was the state board’s sole finalist and was to earn an annual salary of $255,000.

In a statement Thursday, Crandall cited his large family living out of state and the demands of the commissioner’s job as reasons for his resignation.

He offered some elaboration in an interview Friday with Chalkbeat. But Crandall declined to discuss his relationship with the State Board of Education, which unanimously voted in December to hire him.

Tensions between Crandall and board surfaced at a public hearing in April, when board members questioned Crandall’s aggressive plans to take advantage of new freedoms to states granted by the nation’s new primary K-12 education law, the Every Child Succeeds Act, or ESSA.

“I was looking forward to working with numerous groups in Colorado, the BOCES (Boards of Cooperative Educational Services), the advocacy groups, school boards — everybody — to see ESSA be implemented in the most positive way in Colorado,” Crandall said Friday.

Board members have not commented on Crandall’s departure other than one prepared statement from Durham. One board member said Friday members had been instructed to refer questions to an outside public relations representative on contract with the department.

Crandall told Chalkbeat the recent resignation announcements from the department played no role in his decision to leave.

“Katy Anthes is fantastic,” he said of his interim replacement. “I can only say good about her.”

Before becoming chief of staff, Anthes served as interim Commissioner for Achievement and Strategy and the executive director of educator effectiveness. She joined the department in 2011 and oversaw the state’s rollout of a landmark teacher evaluation law.

Anthes holds a Ph.D. in public policy and a master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Colorado Denver. She did her undergraduate work at the University of Oregon.

Crandall acknowledged that some CDE staff members expressed frustration that he had difficulty prioritizing his many ideas or articulating clearly what he wanted to accomplish.

However, Crandall said “Colorado’s future is extremely bright” because of the department’s staff and a number of groups he singled out by name: The Colorado Education Initiative, the Public Education and Business Coalition, the Gates Family Foundation, the Rose Community Foundation and the Donnell-Kay Foundation. (The last three are funders of Chalkbeat Colorado).

“There’s a lot to be done in education,” Crandall added.

One of the most significant tasks that lies ahead: work to improve Colorado’s failing schools.

The education department and state board are preparing to develop new strategies to boost student achievement, with the commissioner and his or or her staff playing a key role.

“By June 2017, these schools have to be on a much better path and trajectory,” Crandall said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported when Anthes joined the department. She joined in 2011, not 2001. 

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.

Asking the candidates

How to win over Northwest Side voters: Chicago aldermen candidates hone in on high school plans

PHOTO: Cassie Walker Burke / Chalkbeat Chicago
An audience member holds up a green sign showing support at a forum for Northwest side aldermanic candidates. The forum was sponsored by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.

The residents filing into the auditorium of Sharon Christa McAuliffe Elementary School Friday wanted to know a few key things from the eager aldermanic candidates who were trying to win their vote.

People wanted to know which candidates would build up their shrinking open-enrollment high schools and attract more students to them.

They also wanted specifics on how the aldermen, if elected, would coax developers to build affordable housing units big enough for families, since in neighborhoods such as Logan Square and Hermosa, single young adults have moved in, rents have gone up, and some families have been pushed out.

As a result, some school enrollments have dropped.

Organized by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Friday’s event brought together candidates from six of the city’s most competitive aldermanic races. Thirteen candidates filled the stage, including some incumbents, such as Aldermen Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st  Ward), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward), and Milly Santiago (31st Ward).

They faced tough questions — drafted by community members and drawn at random from a hat — about bolstering high school enrollment, recruiting more small businesses, and paving the way for more affordable housing.

When the audience members agreed with their positions, they waved green cards, with pictures of meaty tacos. When they heard something they didn’t like, they held up red cards, with pictures of fake tacos.

Red cards weren’t raised much. But the green cards filled the air when candidates shared ideas for increasing the pull of area open-enrollment high schools by expanding dual-language programs and the rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum.

Related: Can a program designed for British diplomats fix Chicago schools? 

“We want our schools to be dual language so people of color can keep their roots alive and keep their connections with their families,” said Rossana Rodriguez, a mother of a Chicago Public Schools’ preschooler and one of challengers to incumbent Deb Mell in the city’s 33rd Ward.  

Mell didn’t appear at the forum, but another candidate vying for that seat did: Katie Sieracki, who helps run a small business. Sieracki said she’d improve schools by building a stronger feeder system between the area’s elementary schools, which are mostly K-8, and the high schools.

“We need to build bridges between our local elementary schools and our high schools, getting buy-in from new parents in kindergarten to third grade, when parents are most engaged in their children’s education,” she said.

Sieracki said she’d also work to design an apprenticeship program that connects area high schools with small businesses.

Green cards also filled the air when candidates pledged to reroute tax dollars that are typically used for developer incentives for school improvement instead.

At the end of the forum, organizers asked the 13 candidates to pledge to vote against new tax increment financing plans unless that money went to schools. All 13 candidates verbally agreed.

Aldermen have limited authority over schools, but each of Chicago’s 50 ward representatives receives a $1.32 million annual slush fund that be used for ward improvements, such as playgrounds, and also can be directed to education needs. And “aldermanic privilege,” a longtime concept in Chicago, lets representatives give the thumbs up or down to developments like new charters or affordable housing units, which can affect school enrollment.

Related: 7 questions to ask your aldermanic candidates about schools

Aldermen can use their position to forge partnerships with organizations and companies that can provide extra support and investment to local schools.

A January poll showed that education was among the top three concerns of voters in Chicago’s municipal election. Several candidates for mayor have recently tried to position themselves as the best candidate for schools in TV ads.