Gist Quits District for Rhode Island
D.C. State Superintendent of Education Deborah A. Gist has resigned to become Rhode Island's top education officer. Sources said this morning that her appointment as Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education is scheduled to be announced in Providence tomorrow.
Sources also said Mayor Adrian M. Fenty will name her successor, former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Kerri L. Briggs, as early as this afternoon. Briggs joined the staff of deputy mayor for education Victor Reinoso several weeks ago.
The departure of Gist, a holdover from former Mayor Anthony Williams' administration, has been rumored for months. Appointed by Williams in 2004 to run the District's small state education office, she became state superintendent when Fenty assumed control of the public school system.
While her agency took on increased responsibilities for special education, charter schools and compliance with federal laws, her influence was limited by her peculiar status under the terms of the mayoral takeover in which she was, in effect, a state superintendent without a state. Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, a Fenty appointee, has been the dominant force in school reform. On the District's organizational chart, Gist actually reported to Reinoso.
At one point she asserted that she had authority over Rhee's plans to restructure the management of schools deemed to be failing under the federal No Child Left Behind Law, but she was later overruled by District lawyers. Last year, she was forbidden by Fenty to discuss teacher certification policy with a Post reporter.
A former Fort Worth elementary school teacher and senior policy analyst at the U.S. Department of Education, Gist repeatedly deflected questions about her tenure but gave every indication that she was looking for the exit sign. She recently graduated from the Broad Superintendents Academy, a 10-month management training program for urban education leaders. Her name has surfaced in several national searches for school chiefs, including posts in St. Louis and Delaware.
"I'm sad. It's a big loss," D.C. State School Board of Education president Lisa Raymond said this morning. "I don't want to say she was wasted here, but she will have a tremendous impact in Rhode Island because the state superintendent's role there is very powerful."
She emerged from a field of nearly three-dozen candidates to win appointment from the Rhode Island's State Board of Regents. Gist will replace the retiring Peter McWalters on July 1.
April 1, 2009; 10:54 AM ET
Categories: Bill Turque , Education
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