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Florida likes the way Tony Bennett, Indiana's uprooted Superintendent of Public Instruction, thinks: teacher evaluations based on student performance, schools receiving grades on the same scale used for their charges, and the headline-grabbing push for more charter education and voucher programs. The Sunshine State apparently longed for his leadership and initiative, offering him the reins to clean up its education system in the midst of his term as the Hoosier State's public schools czar. The Floridian version of the role boasted a salary that tripled his own in Indiana.
Now he himself boasts that salary. Bennett lost to Glenda Ritz in the November election despite outspending her during the campaign by a margin of 10 to 1. He kept it on the sunny side, though, ducking down to Florida to ultimately take the role on which he had earlier passed. He continues to spark national interest, with at-length mentions and quotes this week in The New York Times. “I believe evaluations should be multifaceted,” Dr. Bennett said to the Times. “I don’t believe it’s all one thing.”
After just one term in office here, he clearly made his mark on Indiana education, leaving Ritz, his successor, with a job to do that will be serious-minded from the start, as it should be. If November proved a referendum on Bennett's policies, if not also his personality, the education reforms at hand for Ritz to consider (read: to roll back) provide no shortfall of pressure for the former library media specialist.
Hoosiers voted Bennett out of office after a four-year tug of war involving the state's takeover of some failing schools amidst growing concern and increasingly visceral reactions from school administrators, teachers, and parents.
The father of dramatic state reforms in Indiana, now transitioned to Florida, Bennett remains at the top of the heap when it comes to forceful education leadership—and when a quote is needed.
Photo by Tony Valainis
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