Susan K. Sclafani, who as the Department of Education’s assistant secretary for vocational and adult education won the respect of many career-oriented school officials even as she pressed them to improve their academic programs, announced her resignation last week.
Ms. Sclafani, 60, will step down Sept. 6. She did not specify what her next job would be, though she indicated she would focus on secondary school improvement.
“I hope to assist states and districts as they implement the reforms of No Child Left Behind, especially mathematics and science as well as high school redesign,” she wrote in an Aug. 24 e-mail message to her staff. She was not available for an interview.
Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings named Beto Gonzalez, who was hired as a top deputy to Ms. Sclafani earlier this month, to take over her position on an interim basis until President Bush nominates a successor. Mr. Gonzalez, a former college dean, most recently served as a public-affairs official in the Department of Labor.
Ms. Sclafani oversaw a $1.3 billion program that was the federal government’s largest single investment in high schools. She also served at a time when the Bush administration was often critical of vocational education. The president’s proposed fiscal 2006 budget calls for eliminating the federal vocational program—a move that outraged many advocates—and channeling that money into a plan to expand the No Child Left Behind Act’s requirements at the high school level. The proposal has drawn no backing so far in Congress, where vocational education enjoys strong support.
Despite her position as a political appointee in the administration, Ms. Sclafani spoke favorably of vocational education and its potential—when implemented effectively—to help struggling students. That stance drew praise from the career and technical school community, but also seemed to put her at odds occasionally with the administration’s outlook, observers said. (“Tough Message, Diplomatic Messenger,” Aug. 10, 2005)
“We really felt she was focused on improving education and wasn’t as politically motivated as, sometimes, people in that position are,” said Kimberly A. Green, the executive director of the Washington-based National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium. “Her leadership will be missed.”