President of the Education Commission of the States Plans to Step Down

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The president of the Education Commission of the States will leave her post early next year, and the chairwoman of the group said she would lead an effort to review and renew the 41-year-old group's mission while searching for a successor.

Piedad F. Robertson told ECS commissioners in a closed-door business meeting on July 13 that she would resign effective Feb. 1 at the end of the second year of her contract, Charles Merritt, the vice president of external relations for the ECS, said in an interview.

Ms. Robertson plans to leave because the extensive travel involved in the job has taken a “noticeable toll” on her personally, Merritt said, and “now is the time for her to reprioritize her professional life.”

Ms. Robertson declined a request for an interview.

What Next?

In recent months, several members of the ECS staff, including its No. 2 executive, resigned and expressed concerns over Ms. Robertson’s leadership, warning that the group faced significant financial problems. ("ECS Resignations Raise Questions of Fiscal Health," May 10, 2006.)

While the Denver-based clearinghouse on state education policy searches for Ms. Robertson’s replacement, it will also convene a group of its members and users to define “what is the essence of the mission” for the ECS, said Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who started her two-year term as the group's chairwoman at the end of its annual forum here July 11-14.

Ms. Sebelius said a recent audit concluded that the group’s finances “are in pretty good shape,” but noted that 14 states aren’t paying dues and that income from grants and contracts is declining. These are the three largest sources of revenue for the organization.

The Democratic governor said the panel she will form in the next month will “engage the foundation community” in a conversation about what steps ECS needs to take to “play a role in the dialogue” of educational policy issues, Ms. Sebelius said.

“This can be an opportunity to rehone and redefine and set a course for the future,” she said in an interview.

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