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Leadership Turnover

Gov. Roy E. Barnes will soon be evicted from the Georgia governor's office, but he can keep his job as the chairman of the Education Commission of the States—if he wants to.

Gov. Roy E. Barnes

The Democrat, who lost his re-election bid in an upset on Nov. 5, was elected chairman of the Denver-based ECS this past summer by a vote of the group's members. In fact, he became the first chairman to serve under new rules that turned the position into a two-year job, instead of lasting one year.

Under the ECS constitution, a chairman only has to be a governor at the time of selection. If the chairman happens to leave the governorship while serving in the ECS post, he or she can choose whether to step down.

Last week, Gov. Barnes had not made that decision, said Kim R. Sharpe, an ECS spokeswoman. He was expected to decide this week. Mr. Barnes' office did not return phone calls seeking a comment.

If he chooses to stay, Mr. Barnes would become the first person to chair the ECS who was not also a sitting governor.

The governor has been a proponent of accountability and had planned to focus on the states' role in implementing the federal "No Child Left Behind Act" of 2001 during his chairmanship. ("State Leaders Gauge Impact of New ESEA, Voucher Ruling," Aug. 7, 2002.)

"I want to impress upon all policymakers, particularly governors, that this is important stuff," he said in an interview at the ECS national conference last summer in Los Angeles. "This is the stuff of future prosperity of states. Be involved in it, be active in it, be passionate about it, and don't let it just be a one-year flash in the pan."

Last week, analysts pinned part of Gov. Barnes' loss on teachers, who turned against him after he unraveled the state's teacher-tenure system and put in place changes that held teachers accountable for student performance. The state's main teachers' union did not endorse a gubernatorial candidate, but it supported state Superintendent-elect Kathy Cox, a Republican who has vowed to dismantle many of Gov. Barnes' policies.

If he steps down, the ECS will name another governor to take his place. Ms. Sharpe said ECS leaders have discussed such a possibility. No potential names were final, she said, and the group did not contact governors.

—Joetta L. Sack

Vol. 22, Issue 12, Page 15

Published in Print: November 20, 2002, as State Journal

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