Federal

Paige Hits the Ground Running In New Post

By Joetta L. Sack — January 31, 2001 3 min read

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

School & District Management Live Event Education Week Leadership Symposium
Education Week's Premier Leadership Event for K12 School & District Leaders.
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
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
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
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education

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 Pitches Plan to Expand Universal Pre-K, Free School Meal Programs, Teacher Training
The president's $1.8 trillion American Families Plan faces strong headwinds as Congress considers other costly administration proposals.
8 min read
President Joe Biden addresses Congress from the House chamber. Behind him are Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress Wednesday night, as Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., applaud.<br/>
Chip Somodevilla/AP
Federal Education Department Kicks Off Summer Learning Collaborative
The Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative will boost programs for students acutely affected by COVID-19 in 46 states.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, left, talks with Fort LeBoeuf Middle School teacher Laura Friedman during a discussion on safely returning to schools during the COVID-19 pandemic on March 3, 2021.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, left, talks with Fort LeBoeuf Middle School teacher Laura Friedman during a discussion on safely returning to schools during the COVID-19 pandemic in March.
Greg Wohlford/Erie Times-News via TNS
Federal As 100-Day Mark Approaches, Has Biden Met His School Reopening Goal? And What Comes Next?
President Joe Biden faces a self-imposed deadline of having most K-8 schools open for in-person learning by his hundredth day in office.
6 min read
First Lady Jill Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona tour Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, in Meriden, Ct., on March 3, 2021.
First lady Jill Biden and U.S. Secretary of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona tour Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, in Meriden, Ct., in March.
Mandel Ngan/AP
Federal How the Pandemic Is Affecting Schools' Mandated Collection of Key Civil Rights Data
COVID-19 has complicated the work of gathering a vast store of civil rights data about schools that is required by the Education Department.
7 min read
Image of data.
monsitj/iStock/Getty