Commissioner Klagholz Leaving N.J. Chief's Job

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After five years as Gov. Christine Todd Whitman's school reform lieutenant, New Jersey Commissioner of Education Leo F. Klagholz is stepping down to become a college professor.

Mr. Klagholz tendered his resignation last week to Mrs. Whitman, the Republican who named him to the post in 1994. He is slated to leave in April to teach education policy at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Pomona.

The governor immediately announced that Mr. Klagholz would be replaced by state Assistant Attorney General David Hespe. Mr. Hespe, 38, is a former assistant commissioner of education and has served as the governor's assistant counsel for education policy.

"David Hespe has been a trusted member of our education team from the early days of this administration," Mrs. Whitman said in the written announcement. Mr. Hespe is scheduled to take over his new position April 5.

In a prepared statement, Mr. Klagholz, 56, did not explain why he was leaving. He could not be reached for comment last week.

"It's been a great honor and privilege to serve the students of New Jersey for the past five years," he said in his statement.

"Leo Klagholz was the leader in our efforts to accomplish the most meaningful reforms to public education this state has ever enacted," Gov. Whitman said in a statement.

Much of Mr. Klagholz's tenure was spent working on a plan to end a 28-year finance lawsuit against the state filed on behalf of children in 28 urban school districts. Last May, the New Jersey Supreme Court accepted a plan Mr. Klagholz helped write that called for addressing the lawsuit with revamped curricula, preschool programs, and a school construction program. ("High Court in N.J. Ends Funding Suit," May 27, 1998.)

Standards Legacy

Mr. Klagholz oversaw development and implementation in 1996 of new state academic standards.

"If there's one legacy, it will be the standards," said Frank Belluscio, the spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association. "We may not agree on every point, but they wanted the standards."

Mr. Klagholz also helped open the state's doors to charter schools and led an effort to write a new policy requiring that teachers receive 100 hours of continuing education every five years, starting this year.

Vol. 18, Issue 23, Page 27

Published in Print: February 17, 1999, as Commissioner Klagholz Leaving N.J. Chief's Job
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