States Try New Leadership Strategies; N.C. Governor Chairs Special Cabinet

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When Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. declared earlier this year that the schools in North Carolina would be the best in the country by 2010, he asked his four-member Education Cabinet to map out a plan to get there.

And who better for the task? The cabinet is composed of the state superintendent of schools as well as leaders of the community college and university systems. A representative of the state's private, independent colleges is an ex officio member.

"There is this whole notion of collaboration, but we are making it real," said Cecil E. Banks, the governor's associate education adviser. "The sectors of public education will not operate independent of each other."

North Carolina is one of several states embracing new education governance structures. In North Carolina's case, the Education Cabinet allows the governor to augment his say on policymaking while bringing leaders of different sectors together.

Since its inception in 1993, the cabinet has met about twice a year, with Gov. Hunt serving as the chairman. The group's work became more serious this winter, after the Democratic governor laid down his challenge for the Tar Heel State. The cabinet has since met monthly, with members convening more frequently in smaller work groups.

"The meetings had been periodic, even ceremonial," said Molly Corbett Broad, the president of the University of North Carolina System. "That accelerated when the governor declared this year's 1st graders would graduate from the best schools in America."

The cabinet--which does not set binding policy--hopes that by September, if not sooner, it will unveil its plan for making its state's schools the nation's best.

Policy Forum

In general, the cabinet has served as a regular forum for state education leaders to share ideas on how to bridge gaps between the schoolhouse and the ivory tower on such matters as teacher development and student reading skills.

"We just don't think about reaching those decisions these days without going through a collaborative effort," said Michael Ward, the state superintendent of K-12 schools. For example, he said, Education Cabinet discussions were instrumental in uniting once-disparate resources to help low-performing schools improve.

"The idea that we would have a whole state working around an agreed-upon goal is just unheard of," said Sam Houston, the executive director of the University of North Carolina Center for School Development.

Elsewhere, other state school leaders are also stepping out of their daily roles to help shape education policy, from prekindergarten through college.

"Other states have committees of one kind or another, but it varies to the extent their work is seriously implemented," said Kay McClenney, the vice president of the Education Commission of the States in Denver.

For instance, Georgia state schools Superintendent Linda C. Schrenko co-chairs the state's P-16 Council, a 39-member panel formed in 1995 and named by the governor to study problems common to K-12 and higher education.

And, Maryland has a Pre-K-16 Partnership for Teaching and Learning, which is a voluntary effort led by top state education officials to create seamless public education through graduate school. The 26-member group is forming regional chapters to broaden its scope.

"If we are going to resolve and improve the product we all put out, we can't just slough it off and say it's somebody else's responsibility," said Bob Rice, the Maryland Department of Education's liaison to the panel.

Vol. 18, Issue 35, Page 22

Published in Print: May 12, 1999, as States Try New Leadership Strategies; N.C. Governor Chairs Special Cabinet
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