Pam Stewart, former superintendent candidate in Manatee, approved as Florida interim education commissioner

eearl@bradenton.comAugust 2, 2013 

Pam Stewart approved as Florida interim education commissioner

The state board of education approved chancellor of public schools Pam Stewart as the interim education commissioner Friday in an emergency meeting after Tony Bennett's resignation Thursday.

Stewart last year was a finalist to become superintendent of Manatee County schools, a job that eventually went to Rick Mills.

The state board unanimously approved Stewart as the interim education commissioner in a brief meeting via telephone conference.

Board chairman Gary Chartrand said the board will meet again in September to discuss moving forward with hiring a new commissioner of education.

Bennett resigned Thursday, two days after controversy erupted over school grades in Indiana, where he formerly was state education commission.

"These past three days, I have been in a fire storm," Chartrand said. "We tried to get Tony to stay, but his decision to resign was Tony's decision alone."

State board of education member Kathleen Shanahan said that the state will need to snap back quickly with Stewart taking the helm as the interim.

"I think Pam is a great interim," said. "We have both a mess and an opportunity in our hands, and I don't think we can wait until September to go through out suggestions and take action."

State board of education member Barbara Feingold said that she is both "disappointed and disheartened" by Bennett's resignation.

"Tony is a man of deep integrity that believes strongly in reform in education, as we do," Feingold said. "I believe we had hired the best, but we will persevere."

John Colon, the state board of education member from Manatee County, agreed.

"We should not let this event throw us off," he said.

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