Commission's Director Is Asked To Step Down
The new chairman of the Education Commission of the States, Gov. Charles S. Robb of Virginia, has asked for and received the resignation of the organization's executive director, Robert C. Andringa.
According to Mr. Andringa, he was asked to submit his resignation during an afternoon meeting with Governor Robb on Aug. 4 in Minneapolis, where the ecs was holding its annual conference. Governor Robb had been installed as chairman of the organization earlier in the day.
Mr. Andringa, who left his position as director of policy research for then-Gov. Albert H. Quie of Minnesota in 1980 to join the ecs as its executive director, formally submitted his resignation to Governor Robb in an Aug. 8 letter and Governor Robb accepted it in a letter dated Aug. 9.
Governor Robb declined to comment on Mr. Andringa's resignation. According to a spokesman, the Governor "thought [Mr. Andringa] had completed the mission he set out for himself."
Mr. Andringa said, "Governor Robb said to me that he feels that federal interest in education reform will decline after the election in November, and that leadership will revert to the state level. As a result, he said, the ecs needs a more senior statesman as its head. He said it needs a nationally known person to provide nationwide leadership.''
In a statement to the ecs members meeting in Minneapolis, Governor Robb said, "We will concentrate more resources on fewer issues. We will make greater use of recognized national authorities. We will seek greater visibility by strengthening our relations with the media ..."
Mr. Andringa said Mr. Robb was "very gracious" in seeking his resignation. "He said in no way was it an evaluation of the last four years," Mr. Andringa said. "The Governor said he feels very good about them."
Mr. Andringa added: "You are very vulnerable as executive director because by tradition the chairmanship rotates each year by party. Each spring, I have told the incoming chairman that I'm willing to step down." Mr. Robb is a Democrat; Mr. Andringa has been affiliated with the Republican Party.
Mr. Andringa, who will remain in his job until a successor is named, said the timing of the request for his resignation "came as a little bit of a surprise."
"The ecs is about to begin a top-to-bottom review of itself--its structure, funding, priorities, and its role," he said. "I felt I should resign after the evaluation was presented at the organization's 20th annual meeting next summer."
The commission, a nonprofit organization, was founded in 1965 by Terry Sanford, former governor of North Carolina, and James Conant, former president of Harvard University, to help state leaders make education policy.
The organization recently lost a $4.2-million federal contract to sponsor the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It has also lost some highly regarded staff members and encountered criticism of its information-gathering activities.
One ecs official, who asked not to be named, said the loss of the naep contract was a "blow" to the organization and to Mr. Andringa.
He added that Mr. Andringa has been "very, very faithful" to the notion that the organization's primary mission should be to provide staff support for governors and the other state-level officials it serves, rather than attempt to influence national education policy directly.
"That was the position he took when he interviewed for the job," the ecs official said, "and the executive committee bought into it. Robb has a different vision of what the ecs should do.
"He wants someone in the position like John Gardner [former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and founder of Common Cause and Independent Sector] or Francis Keppel [former U.S. Commissioner of Education]. Those are the names that are being tossed around."
Mr. Robb has appointed a 12-member search committee of ecs officers to recommend a successor to Mr. Andringa. According to Mr. Andringa, it is hoped that the person will be named by December.
Mr. Andringa will remain at the ecs for one year after he steps down as executive director. He will serve as a Conant Fellow, working to develop ties between the commission and the nation's business community, according to a statement by Governor Robb.
Mr. Andringa said he is "seriously considering" assuming the presidency of a recently incorporated, nonprofit organization that will promote the creation of "life institutes" for youths 18 to 21 years old seeking alternatives to regular education experiences.