National search launched for state education commissioner

Posted: Friday, June 15, 2007

Alaska officials will conduct a national search to find a replacement for the outgoing commissioner of the Department of Education and Early Development.

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Commissioner Roger Sampson announced last week he would leave Aug. 17.

Eric Fry, an Education Department spokesman, says the state Board of Education will look for a proven education leader with a long track record of success.

The application deadline is July 10. The state board expects to screen applications by July 17 and interview finalists by July 30.

Gov. Sarah Palin must approve the board's appointment.

Sampson resigned to take the job of president of the Education Commission of the States.

According to its Web site, the organization helps states develop effective public education policies and practices. It provides research, analysis and leadership and promotes the exchange of ideas among states.

Former Gov. Frank Murkowski appointed Sampson to head the Department of Education in May 2003 and Palin kept him on the job.

"Commissioner Sampson has worked tirelessly for the students and teachers of Alaska for the past 20 years," Palin said. "While I am sorry to see Commissioner Sampson leave ... he has a tremendous opportunity to have an impact on a national level, which can only be good for ... Alaska."

Sampson was a superintendent of the Chugach School District and was named National Rural Superintendent of the Year in 1997.

The Education Commission of the States was created by Congress in the 1960s to research improvements to public education.

"The country is crying for a way to make America's education competitive with the world's," Sampson said. "It was a tough decision. But I don't think these opportunities at the national level come available very often, and I felt fortunate to be given the opportunity to do it. So I'm going to give it a whirl."

As Alaska's chief education official, Sampson started a statewide mentoring program that pairs new teachers with experienced ones.

He also pushed changes in state-required tests. Exams are better now, Sampson said, because teachers can use them to figure out where children are lagging.

"Ultimately that's going to change the dropout rates, and change how kids perform," he said.

His new job will take him to Denver.

Fry said his replacement must have at least a master's degree and five years experience in education after earning that degree, including at least three in administration.

The Education Department oversees 53 school districts in the kindergarten-to-12 education system and operates a boarding high school. The department also operates the state archives, the state library, two state museums, a statewide arts council, the postsecondary education commission, and the professional teaching practices commission.



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