familiar face

Education department chief of staff chosen as interim commissioner, Crandall discusses sudden exit

Katy Anthes (photo by Nic Garcia).

Katy Anthes, the Colorado Department of Education’s widely respected chief of staff, was tapped Friday to temporarily lead the state agency after former Commissioner Rich Crandall’s surprise resignation a day earlier.

The State Board of Education, which met by teleconference, unanimously appointed Anthes as interim commissioner at an emergency meeting. The board also formally accepted Crandall’s resignation after initially meeting in closed session.

Anthes’ appointment represents an about-face for her. On Monday, she wrote to colleagues that she was leaving the agency after five years, joining other top staff who have announced departures recently. Anthes’ last day was supposed to be in mid-June.

Speaking to reporters after her appointment, Anthes described her earlier resignation announcement as a “personal decision” and did not elaborate. She pledged that she was ready to get to work and that the department would not skip a beat.

“I’m really honored and excited the board has the confidence in me to lead the department through this transition,” she said. “So I’m excited to get to work on this transition on Monday.”

Anthes declined to say whether she would consider applying for the position on a permanent basis. She’ll be paid at an annual rate of $225,000 a year. The board did not discuss any details of the search for a commissioner.

State officials on Friday would not release details of Crandall’s separation agreement, saying it would be made available after state board chairman Steve Durham and a representative from the state controller’s office signed the paperwork.

Crandall came in with little experience heading a large state bureaucracy but impressed board members with his business background. A former Republican lawmaker from Arizona, Crandall also served briefly as the education commissioner of Wyoming before that post was eliminated. He was the state board’s sole finalist and was to earn an annual salary of $255,000.

In a statement Thursday, Crandall cited his large family living out of state and the demands of the commissioner’s job as reasons for his resignation.

He offered some elaboration in an interview Friday with Chalkbeat. But Crandall declined to discuss his relationship with the State Board of Education, which unanimously voted in December to hire him.

Tensions between Crandall and board surfaced at a public hearing in April, when board members questioned Crandall’s aggressive plans to take advantage of new freedoms to states granted by the nation’s new primary K-12 education law, the Every Child Succeeds Act, or ESSA.

“I was looking forward to working with numerous groups in Colorado, the BOCES (Boards of Cooperative Educational Services), the advocacy groups, school boards — everybody — to see ESSA be implemented in the most positive way in Colorado,” Crandall said Friday.

Board members have not commented on Crandall’s departure other than one prepared statement from Durham. One board member said Friday members had been instructed to refer questions to an outside public relations representative on contract with the department.

Crandall told Chalkbeat the recent resignation announcements from the department played no role in his decision to leave.

“Katy Anthes is fantastic,” he said of his interim replacement. “I can only say good about her.”

Before becoming chief of staff, Anthes served as interim Commissioner for Achievement and Strategy and the executive director of educator effectiveness. She joined the department in 2011 and oversaw the state’s rollout of a landmark teacher evaluation law.

Anthes holds a Ph.D. in public policy and a master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Colorado Denver. She did her undergraduate work at the University of Oregon.

Crandall acknowledged that some CDE staff members expressed frustration that he had difficulty prioritizing his many ideas or articulating clearly what he wanted to accomplish.

However, Crandall said “Colorado’s future is extremely bright” because of the department’s staff and a number of groups he singled out by name: The Colorado Education Initiative, the Public Education and Business Coalition, the Gates Family Foundation, the Rose Community Foundation and the Donnell-Kay Foundation. (The last three are funders of Chalkbeat Colorado).

“There’s a lot to be done in education,” Crandall added.

One of the most significant tasks that lies ahead: work to improve Colorado’s failing schools.

The education department and state board are preparing to develop new strategies to boost student achievement, with the commissioner and his or or her staff playing a key role.

“By June 2017, these schools have to be on a much better path and trajectory,” Crandall said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported when Anthes joined the department. She joined in 2011, not 2001. 


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”