Kentucky’s education commissioner will be the new leader of the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Gene Wilhoit will leave his post Nov. 1, the Kentucky Department of Education announced today, and begin as the executive director of the Washington-based nonprofit group that represents officials who lead state departments of education across the country.
Mr. Wilhoit, a former social studies teacher, will lead an organization whose members play the central role in every state’s compliance with the complex rules under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
“I look forward to this chance to help shape state and national education policy,” Mr. Wilhoit said in a statement. He has also served as executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education and was the chief of the Arkansas Department of Education.
Mr. Wilhoit will replace G. Thomas Houlihan, the CCSSO’s executive director since 2001, who announced his resignation in April and left his post on Aug. 31. During his tenure, the group played an active rule in helping states implement the No Child Left Behind Act while also bringing state leaders’ concerns about the law to the U.S. Department of Education.
The Kentucky school chief joins the CCSSO at an important time because Congress is expected to reauthorize the law in 2007.
And while most Washington observers expect final action on the law to be postponed at least a year, the state chiefs’ group has already begun the process of deciding what changes it will seek to NCLB.
“Having someone who has the experiences he’s had, especially in a state where it’s been difficult and challenging to implement No Child Left Behind, will be useful” to CCSSO, said Robert F. Sexton, the executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, a Lexington, Ky.-based group of citizen leaders seeking improvements to Kentucky’s schools.
In Kentucky, the state board of education will hire a search firm to help find a replacement for Mr. Wilhoit, who became commissioner in October 2000. In the interim, according to a statement from the department, Kevin Noland, the deputy commissioner of the department’s bureau of operations and support services, will be the interim chief.