Federal

Paige Hits the Ground Running In New Post

By Joetta L. Sack — January 31, 2001 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A few days before President Bush’s inauguration, Rod Paige probably could have passed unnoticed in the nation’s capital as just another Texan in cowboy boots.

A few days afterward, it was hard to turn on the TV news without seeing his face.

The new secretary of education’s first week on the job was a whirlwind. President Bush declared Jan. 22-26 to be “Education Week” and spent each day promoting his “No Child Left Behind” education package, his first major policy initiative; often, Mr. Paige stood by his side.

By the end of the week, the former Houston schools superintendent had given interviews to nearly every national television network, from CNN to Black Entertainment Television.

“With education being the first item on the [president’s] agenda, he has had a very busy start,” said Lindsey Kozberg, the acting spokeswoman for Mr. Paige. She added: “He is getting settled in.”

Secretary Paige did manage to squeeze in a few visits with the agency’s staff, she reported.

Even before the presidential inauguration and Mr. Paige’s confirmation on Jan. 20, educators and school groups welcomed him to Washington with receptions and parties.

On Jan. 18, the Council of the Great City Schools hosted a reception for top representatives from education groups to meet Mr. Paige, the first African-American to head the federal Department of Education.

On the evening of Inauguration Day, the secretary and other education and political leaders attended a Washington dinner in Mr. Paige’s honor hosted by Los Angeles businessman and philanthropist Eli Broad. Mr. Broad, well-known as a Democratic fund-raiser, started a foundation in 1999 to finance programs to improve education.

In addition, President Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney held a swearing-in ceremony at the Department of Education on Jan. 24 to officially mark the beginning of Mr. Paige’s tenure. It was the first public swearing-in that they had conducted, although they had held private events for other Cabinet officers.

Mr. Cheney, who led the 15-minute ceremony, reiterated Mr. Bush’s pledge of support for a strong federal role in education.

“It was our wish to be here as a sign of support” for the department, Mr. Cheney said. “You can judge a president’s commitment to an issue by the caliber of the people he appoints. Seeing the caliber of Dr. Paige, you know the issue is close to President Bush’s heart.”

That ceremony, which Ms. Kozberg said marked the first time a president and vice president had ever made a joint appearance at the department’s headquarters, was attended by about 150 people, including members of Congress, representatives from education groups, and Mr. Paige’s siblings and son.

Afterward, President Bush and Vice President Cheney toured the agency’s computer-training laboratory.

During his brief visit there, Mr. Bush said he wanted to personally thank the employees for their work. “I can’t think of a more important mission than making sure every child is educated,” he said.

Mr. Paige vowed to “make education reform the law of the land.”

“When each and every child in this country has received a quality education, we will have made history,” the secretary said.

He received a warm welcome from the members of Congress who attended the ceremony. Rep. J.C. Watts Jr., R-Okla., who said a prayer at the swearing-in, ribbed Mr. Paige about his background and his choice of footwear.

“As I was reading his biography, I noticed there were two things I liked about him,” Mr. Watts said. “He’s an old football coach, and he wears boots every day.”

Identity Crisis

Among other transition action, the Senate last week confirmed Tommy G. Thompson, the outgoing governor of Wisconsin, to head the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Head Start and other family programs.

The Senate Judiciary Committee delayed action on Mr. Bush’s controversial appointment of former Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri as attorney general.

Meanwhile, Education Department officials were tight-lipped last week on the process of choosing the agency’s other political appointees, including the jobs of deputy secretary and the assistant secretaries. Ms. Kozberg said that for the foreseeable future, the agency would have no comment on any names rumored to be under consideration or when the selections would be announced.

Meanwhile, the agency’s press officials also were getting to know their new leader. Until late last week, they weren’t sure whether to refer to Mr. Paige on official press releases by his nickname, Rod, or by his full name and middle initial, Roderick R. Their first press advisory, issued Jan. 24, used both references as a compromise.

But last Friday, a decision was made: Call him Rod.

A version of this article appeared in the January 31, 2001 edition of Education Week as Paige Hits the Ground Running In New Post

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Biden Drops Out of Race and Endorses Kamala Harris to Lead the Democratic Ticket
The president's endorsement of Harris makes the vice president the most likely nominee for the Democrats.
3 min read
President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference July 11, 2024, on the final day of the NATO summit in Washington.
President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference July 11, 2024, on the final day of the NATO summit in Washington. He announced Sunday that he was dropping out of the 2024 presidential race and endorsing Vice President Kamala Harris as his replacement for the Democratic nomination.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Federal Opinion The Great Project 2025 Freakout
There's nothing especially scary in the Heritage Foundation's education agenda—nor is it a reliable gauge of another Trump administration.
6 min read
Man lurking behind the American flag, suspicion concept.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Federal Data Is the Federal Agency That Tracks School Data Losing Steam?
A new study of U.S. data agencies finds serious capacity problems at the National Center for Education Statistics.
3 min read
Illustration of data bar charts and line graphs superimposed over a school crossing sign.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and iStock/Getty images
Federal Trump's VP Pick: What We Know About JD Vance's Record on Education
Two days after a gunman tried to assassinate him, former President Donald Trump announced Ohio Sen. JD Vance as his running mate.
4 min read
Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, right, points toward Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally, March 16, 2024, in Vandalia, Ohio.
Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, right, points toward Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally, March 16, 2024, in Vandalia, Ohio. Trump on July 15 announced the first-term Ohio senator as his running mate.
Jeff Dean/AP