Scott calls state ed board members after chairman quitsby Dara Kam | March 24th, 2011
After nearly three months on the job, Gov. Rick Scott reached out for the first time yesterday to the members of the state board of education after chairman T. Willard Fair quit over what he called Scott’s heavy-handed handling of Education Commissioner Eric Smith‘s resignation.
During an emergency board meeting by telephone this morning, each of the panel’s five remaining members said they were encouraged that Scott, who on the campaign trail called education one of his top priorities, called them yesterday afternoon.
“I’d never spoken to Gov. Scott before,” said Roberto Martinez, appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush. “It was greatly appreciated.”
Martinez said Scott told him “he recognized the record of accomplishment and service” of Smith and “also recognized the record of leadership by Chairman Fair.”
In a letter to the board yesterday, Fair complained Scott forced Smith out of his position, something Smith denied, and refused to participate in the telephone call.
Martinez said Scott gave him his cell phone number during the lengthy call.
“It was a very encouraging call. It was an excellent call and I greatly appreciated it,” Martinez said.
The board agreed to hire a head-hunter firm to conduct a national search for Smith’s replacement. And they unanimously agreed to put into the record their admiration and support for Fair.
The state constitution gives the governor the authority to appoint the seven members to the board, which is responsible for hiring and firing the state education commissioner.
Fair’s term ended in December, but he stayed on until Scott made his own appointments, something he has not yet done.