3 education chief finalists chosen
TALLAHASSEE - Two applicants who have led state school systems in Indiana and Illinois and a former federal education official are the three finalists for Florida education commissioner. The state Department of Education on Tuesday announced the three finalists who had been selected by a consulting firm from about 60 applicants. The State Board of Education is scheduled to interview them Tuesday in Tampa and make a decision the following day. The finalists are Tony Bennett, who lost a bid for re-election as Indiana's school superintendent on Nov. 6; Charles Hokanson, a consultant in Arlington, Va., and former deputy assistant U.S. secretary of education; and Murray State University President Randy Dunn, who once served as state school superintendent in Illinois. The board is seeking a replacement for Gerard Robinson, who resigned in August after about a year on the job.Robinson formerly had been Virginia's secretary of education and cited separation from his family. His wife, a law professor, and children stayed in Virginia after she was unable to find a similar job in Tallahassee. Bennett, a Republican, was ousted after spending the past four years pushing changes modeled on those championed in Florida by former Gov. Jeb Bush. They included private school vouchers and state takeovers of troubled schools. Bush's brother, former President George W. Bush, appointed Hokanson to his federal job. Hokanson, who has a law degree from Harvard University, previously served as president of the Alliance for School Choice, where he also supported changes advocated by Jeb Bush. Dunn was superintendent in Illinois for two years before taking the top position at Murray State in Kentucky in 2006. All three were final day applicants. The state board set Friday as the deadline after extending the search for two months. It also has reserved the right to seek additional candidates if these finalists prove unsatisfactory. The applicants included Thomas Jandris, a vice president and dean at Chicago's Concordia University, who had been among five finalists the board had interviewed when it hired Robinson. Jandris, though, didn't make the cut this time. Pam Stewart, the state's K-12 chancellor, is acting as interim commissioner until a permanent replacement begins work. She did not apply for the position and hopes to remain as chancellor. Chancellors for the K-12 and State College System report to the commissioner. Florida's 12 public universities are under State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan, who's hired by another panel, the Board of Governors.