TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida's education commissioner Eric Smith is leaving that post in June, saying he wants to give new Gov. Rick Scott a say in a successor who will pursue his goals.
In a release from his office on Monday, Smith said he told members of the State Board of Education of his plans to resign effective June 10, which is the final day of the current school year The board, comprised of gubernatorial appointees, will make the final decision on Smith's replacement.
"Commissioner Smith had to do what he thought was best, and he is very respectful of Gov. Scott and the new governor's desire to have his leaders in place," board member Mark Kaplan said Monday, adding that he hadn't seen any rift between the governor and Smith on education issues.
"I think they are both very forward-looking," Kaplan said.
Smith served during a tumultuous time in Florida education, with budgets already being cut when he took over in October 2007 and lawmakers challenging teacher tenure while promoting merit pay and relaxing classroom size standards.
The state's education commissioner heads the Department of Education, which oversees the state's public schools, pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, and community colleges.
"The future is promising and very exciting for our students," said Smith, who informed the new administration of his decision on Friday. Smith, who earned $275,000 annually as commissioner, did not reveal his future plans. In a terse one-paragraph statement Monday, Scott thanked the departing commissioner for his service.
Smith, who will turn 61 on Wednesday, was named to head Florida's education system during the first year of former Gov. Charlie Crist's administration. He was previously a senior vice president with the New York-based College Board, which administers the SAT, a superintendent in Annapolis, Md., and Charlotte, N.C. and a principal in Winter Park.
After electing its education commissioners for decades, Florida switched to an appointed commissioner in 2003, when a constitutional amendment reshuffled the Cabinet.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)