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Published in Print: November 24, 1999, as ECS Appoints President; Panel Speaks to Findings

ECS Appoints President; Panel Speaks to Findings

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A university president and former deputy U.S. secretary of education in the Bush administration has been named the president of the Education Commission of the States, organization officials announced during a meeting here last week.

The National Commission on
Governing America's Schools
Anthony J. Alvarado, deputy superintendent, San Diego
Lynnwood Battle, Cincinnati school board member and former executive at Procter & Gamble
Thomas Davis, Missouri state board of education member
Howard Fuller, professor, Marquette University, and former Milwaukee superintendent
Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma
Diana Lam, Providence, R.I. superintendent
Donald McAdams, Houston school board member
Deborah McGriff, senior vice-president, Edison Schools, Inc., and former Detroit superintendent
Luther S. Olsen, Wisconsin assemblyman and local school board member
David Osborne, co-author of the book Reinventing Government and managing partner of the Public Strategies Group in Essex, Mass.
Gov. Paul E. Patton of Kentucky; commission co-chairman
Neal Peirce, syndicated columnist
James Reiner, former Honeywell CEO and chairman, and chairman of the Institute for Educational Leadership; commission co-chairman
Lisbeth B. Schnorr, director, Harvard University Project on Effective Interventions and author of the book Common Purpose
Theodore R. Sizer, chairman, Coalition of Essential Schools and co-principal, Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School in Devins, Mass.
Sheree Speakman, president and CEO, Fox River Learning in Highland Park, Ill.
Adam Urbanski, president, Rochester (N.Y.) Federation of Teachers
Copies of the commission's report are $16.75 from the Education Commission of the States Distribution Center and are available by calling (303)299-3692 or via e-mail at jivey@ecs.org.

The appointment of Ted Sanders, currently the president of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, was approved during a Nov. 15 meeting of ECS steering committee members. Mr. Sanders, who has also served as the chief state school officer in Nevada, Illinois, and Ohio, plans to begin his work at the Denver-based ECS on Feb. 1.

"I'm excited to begin," Mr. Sanders said in an interview after the announcement. "This is something I've always wanted to do if I had the chance."

The meeting also marked the final gathering of the National Commission on Governing America's Schools, a 17-member group of education officials from around the country chartered by the ECS to explore new ways to run schools. During the meeting, commission members fielded questions about the report they released Nov. 9 suggesting that states and districts wishing to improve troubled school systems should give parents more choices and shift more decisionmaking authority to schools.

Lengthy Search

The ECS began its lengthy search for a new president last fall, following President Frank Newman's announcement in September 1998 that he would leave the organization as soon as a suitable replacement was named. Kay McClenney, the vice president of the organization, has served as interim president since Mr. Newman's departure in July after a 14-year tenure.

Mr. Sanders' education policy experience in several states makes him well-suited for the job, Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer said in a statement. Mr. Geringer, a Republican, is the 1999-2000 chairman of the organization. The chairmanship alternates between GOP and Democratic governors.

"We look to ECS to be on the forefront of helping shape policies that can be tailored to each state's needs," Mr. Geringer said. "Ted Sanders brings the respect and experience to live up to those high expectations."

Mr. Sanders said he fully believes in the mission ECS founders identified in 1966 when they created the organization to provide interstate planning for education leaders. Still, he said, he hopes to harness new technologies to maximize the organization's potential.

Governance Questions

Meanwhile, the presentation here of the school governance commission's report triggered some debate among meeting participants on how school districts and states could effectively manage districtwide public school choice, an approach suggested by both of the governance models outlined in the report. ("ECS Report Tackles K-12 Governance," Nov. 10, 1999.)

Some audience members asked how rural districts and those operating under court-ordered desegregation orders could offer meaningful choice programs. And Hazel Loucks, the deputy governor for education and workforce development in Illinois, said commission members were making "erroneous assumptions" about some parents' ability to make effective choices.

"All parents aren't educated enough to know what a good school looks like and to make good choices for their children," Ms. Loucks said.

After the meeting, commission member Howard Fuller, a professor at Marquette University and a former superintendent of the Milwaukee public schools, said the notion that "if people don't have education, they don't have the capacity to make decisions ... is way off the mark."

"You've got to get people information, and you've got to care about them," Mr. Fuller said. "You've got to assume that if you embrace this, there are certain things that will be worked through."

The National School Boards Association also stepped up its criticism of the commission's report, releasing a statement saying the report's push for more school-based decisionmaking fails to recognize that not all schools want decentralized authority.

"The commission's report takes a huge step backwards in recommending an alternative system to education governance that eliminates virtually all public accountability, including direct oversight on how schools spend money and hire staff," said NSBA President Mary Ellen Maxwell.

Vol. 19, Issue 13, Pages 18,21

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