Arizona Senator to Run Education Department

Wyoming Gov. Mead appoints Arizona senator to run education department

Reported from the Casper Star-Tribune’s Joan Barron

Richard Crandall, an Arizona state senator and co-owner of two nutritional service companies, was selected on Wednesday by Gov. Matt Mead to run the Wyoming Department of Education.

Crandall, whose appointment is subject to confirmation by the state Senate, takes over a department embroiled in controversy, including the removal of its previous administrator — state schools Superintendent Cindy Hill — earlier this year by a new state law. Hill is challenging the constitutionality of the change in court.

Despite the situation he is stepping into as director of the education department, Crandall said he considers the position to be a “dream job.”

“You’ve got the state board, a governor’s office and a Legislature who just want to do big things for Wyoming students,” he said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C. “And they have a lot of similar ideas and some big thinking and to be able to walk into an organization like that and be a part of it is a thrill of a lifetime.”

Crandall had already announced he was retiring from his state Senate seat mid-term to pursue his “dream job” of leading a school system.

On Wednesday he said he would “step away” from his two companies: CN Resources and Crandall Corporate Dieticians in Mesa, Ariz.

Crandall previously chaired Arizona’s Senate and House education committees and was the school board president for the state’s largest school district in Mesa.

“Richard impressed me with his strong background in education policy and innovation,” Mead said in a media release issued late Wednesday afternoon.

“His work with the Digital Learning Commission, a national panel established by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has given him special insight into classroom instruction and uses of technology,” Mead added.

Crandall was one of three finalists chosen by the state Board of Education for the job. The others were Tony Apostle, retired superintendent of public schools in Puyallup, Wash., and Norman Ridder, superintendent of public schools in Springfield, Mo.

During a public meeting of the finalists last month, Crandall said he was focused on technology and would not shy from wholesale changes that incorporate technology and other innovative learning methods in the classroom.

He said he was most passionate about personalized learning that customizes lessons to the needs of individual students.

As director of the education department, Crandall will supervise about 150 employees and an annual budget of about $1 billion.

Crandall said late Wednesday that he will fly to Cheyenne on Friday to meet with the governor and other state officials.

“It’s a dream job. It’s going to be a treat,” Crandall said. “Wyoming has this incredible infrastructure that I think they want to see what they can do.”

The state Board of Education and the governor’s office talked about finding ways to support teachers with technology, he said.

“They’re excited to be education innovators,” he said. “The state of Wyoming is poised to do great things.”

Crandall will take over from interim director Jim Rose.

Rose is director of the Wyoming Community College Commission. Mead appointed him interim director of the education department in January after the Legislature passed and the governor signed Senate File 104. The law removed Hill from her administrative duties over the department and put them under an appointed director. Hill now has general supervisory responsibility for the state’s public schools.

SF104 was the subject of a failed referendum by the Wyoming Constitution Party and an inquiry into how the education department has been run under Hill’s watch.

The inquiry team, which was appointed by Mead, reported back last week. The inquiry, submitted without conclusions and largely consisting of interviews with department staff, indicated possible misuse of federal money for unauthorized programs and trips in the state plane under Hill’s administration.

Legislative leaders are considering appointing a special House committee to investigate further. The special committee could recommend impeachment of Hill, who has denied any wrongdoing.

Crandall said he has read up on the situation and his not being associated with what has happened so far is an advantage.

“I’m going to let that take its course because I’m not part of that,” he said. “Everyone’s got a clean slate with me there. I’m just looking forward to being part of a dynamic organization.”



Reported from the Casper Star-Tribune’s Elysia Conner –

The board announced Saturday that Tony Apostle, Richard Crandall and Norman Ridder are the three finalists whose names the board will forward to Mead.

The finalists likely will face interviews with the governor this week, said Mary Kay Hill, Mead’s deputy policy director.

The governor was charged by the 2013 Wyoming Legislature with choosing the director by Dec. 1. Mead expects to make the decision sooner, Hill said.

Apostle and Ridder interviewed privately with the board in Cheyenne Saturday, then took questions from interested people in a public session. The board interviewed Crandall and three other semifinalists Friday.

In a prepared statement, Mead offered his appreciation to State Board of Education members for their work.

“The Board of Education provided an excellent pool of candidates,” Mead said in a press release. “The Board has done a yeoman’s job to make sure that the Director of the Department of Education will be an individual who knows education and can move education in Wyoming forward.”

The two candidates who expressed their views in the public session Saturday:

Norman Ridder

Ridder is the superintendent of the Springfield Public Schools in Springfield, Missouri, and oversees a district of 24,876 students and a $273 million budget.

Ridder on Saturday emphasized a desire to consult with educators around the state when making decisions, and taking a scientific approach using data to meet students’ specific needs. If chosen, he said he’d plan to visit and understand each community, and do a “systems check” for how aligned, flexible and focused each district is.

“Without question, the department does not know anything better than the teacher next to that student,” he said, adding, “The Department of Education is really at the bottom of the totem pole and needs to look for ways to be able to serve and support that child in the classroom.”

For school reform, Ridder said he’d prioritize moving from an “atmosphere of compliance and status quo with testing to continuous improvement.”

Ridder said it’s important to include all stakeholders in educational accountability, including the state and federal government. He’s close with legislators and the governor in his state, he said. But a common mistake in education is that the community is not as involved as it should be, he said.

In Springfield, they ensure compliance with state and national requirements, but pay most attention to what they local community wants, he said.

Ridder said he’s not a fan of state assessments. “I think it’s a compliance, status quo initiative,” he said. He supports the Common Core State Standards, a set of interstate standards Wyoming adopted last year. He said his staff are excited about the Common Core standards and feel much better about their future than current state assessments.

Ridder is a former superintendent of a Colorado Springs school district and holds an education doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He once studied to become a priest, but decided he wanted a family and career in education. He said his faith remains a major part of who he is.

Tony Apostle

Tony Apostle is a retired superintendent of Puyallup Public Schools in Puyallup, Wash,. He oversaw a district with 21,000 students and a $230 million budget. He said he still has much he wants to do to give back to public school systems.

Apostle’s approach would include creating a strategic plan for public education in Wyoming, he said during Saturday’s public session. Gaps between district and state efforts will fail students, he said.

“It would be my goal to connect with State Board of Education to develop a strategic plan that moves top, bottom, horizontally and vertically, throughout the public school system in the state,” he said.

Districts would have customized plans connected with the overall state plan, Apostle added.

“Where we go will be in concert with your participation, and other stakeholders in the state, to develop a common plan,” he said, “one where we can get collaboration and buy-in and move forward.”

Apostle also supports the Common Core State Standards. During the transition, it’s important to balance data and decision making with attitudes of stakeholders, he said.

He also emphasized need for agreement on an accountability system. “I think that from the ground up,” he said, “we need to build an accountability system that there’s agreement to implement and that we insist that every school district In the state follow that accountability system ….”

Apostle has been also the director of administrative services and elementary education for Puyallup Schools, and holds a doctorate in education from Washington State University.

Richard Crandall

Richard Crandall holds an Master of Business Administration degree from Notre Dame and is the CEO and CFO of CN Resources and Crandall Corporate Dietitians in Mesa, Ariz. He is a state senator in Arizona and the past chair of the Arizona Senate and House Education Committees. He is also a former member of the Mesa Schools Governing Board.

Crandall said during the public session Friday he had announced earlier this year that he “is retiring his state Senate seat to pursue his ‘dream job’ of leading a school system.

On Friday, he focused on technology, telling public session attendees he wouldn’t shy away from wholesale changes that incorporate technology and other innovative learning methods in the classroom.

He said he was most passionate about personalized learning that customizes lessons to the needs of individual students.

Governor Thanks Board of Education and Looks Forward to Meeting Candidates

CHEYENNE, Wyo. –  Governor Matt Mead expressed his appreciation to the Wyoming Board of Education members for their work in selecting the finalists for the Director of the Wyoming Department of Education. The Board forwarded three names to Governor Mead today. State law gives Governor Mead until December 1, 2013 to appoint one of them, but the Governor says he will appoint someone much sooner.

“The Board of Education provided an excellent pool of candidates. I am impressed with their credentials. I thank each member of the Board of Education,” Governor Mead said. “The Board has done a yeoman’s job to make sure that the Director of the Department of Education will be an individual who knows education and can move education in Wyoming forward.”