Byron's Babbles

Who is Our Chief State School Official?

Posted in Education, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 16, 2011

This past week there was an article in Education Week entitled, Who is Your Chief State School Officer? It was a great article and talked about how state departments of education are needing to become more resource and tool oriented. It went on to talk about some state’s view their department of education as too compliance-oriented. I firmly believe that the Indiana Department of Education is taking huge strides to become more of a resource to all school corporations in the state of Indiana.

For this post I want to share who I believe our chief state school official, or State Superintendent of Public Instruction, is. This past Tuesday I had the honor of introducing Dr. Tony Bennett, our State Superintendent of Public Instruction, for his State of Education Address. I believe my introduction speaks to who I believe our chief state school official is. Here it is:

I had the opportunity this summer to hear Condoleezza Rice speak. She said, “Today’s headlines and history’s judgment are rarely the same.” As I listened, I thought about how true this is. Then my thoughts turned to the man I am introducing this evening. Dr. Bennett is a leader with real vision and who can transform that vision into meaningful strategies for students. 

History is beginning to record the success of education reform that first of all recognizes effective teachers and administrators. 2011 and beyond will be the greatest years ever to be a teacher leader in Indiana. The initiatives being implemented under Dr. Bennett’s leadership recognize me as the professional I am. I will be evaluated for my first priority of high student performance and achievement. Additionally, my role as a teacher leader creating a positive school environment that facilitates student learning will also become an important part of that evaluation. This truly will allow me to grow professionally by putting students first.

Furthermore, great school administrators like mine at Lebanon Community School Corporation now have the independence to make decisions that, as an effective teacher, will enable me to put students first. Good leadership includes teaching and building relationships. Under Dr. Bennett’s leadership, the Department of Education is building those relationships by taking a proactive role in being a key resource for school corporations in implementing Indiana’s education reforms.

Families now have options regardless of circumstance. Another part of Condoleezza Rice’s speech reminded me of Dr. Bennett’s vision. She said, “It doesn’t matter where you came from, but where you are going.” We cannot say this, however, if we can look at your zip code and know what kind of education you will receive. 

Years from now, I believe history will speak favorably of Indiana’s comprehensive education reform. The best leaders make their promises under the public scrutiny of their followers. Then they keep them. I for one am proud that Dr. Bennett has kept his promises and given all schools the freedom to innovate, respond to students’ needs, and put all students first.

The first time I heard Dr. Bennett speak, I said to myself, “This guy gets it!” In October of 2009, I was blessed to get to know him personally…Since then, the man I saw as a tremendous educational leader has become my mentor, my coach, and—most important—my friend in the best, the rarest, and highest sense.

Please stand and join me in welcoming to the podium our Superintendent of Public Instruction – Dr. Tony Bennett. 

3 Responses

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  1. Bilgewater said, on September 27, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Dr. Bennett has been very glib and great at giving sound bites. What many fail to recognize is that TEACHERS have put students first for years and nobody has paid attention. Bennett claims to do the same thing, but this time he puts teachers LAST.


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