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Scott calls state ed board members after chairman quits

Thursday, March 24th, 2011 by Dara Kam

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.

State Board of Education chairman quits over Scott’s handling of commissioner’s resignation

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 by Dara Kam

T. Willard Fair, chairman of the state Board of Education, has resigned over Gov. Rick Scott’s handling of the resignation of education commissioner Eric Smith, who announced he was stepping down on Monday.

Fair’s term had already expired in December, but has remained on the board until Scott replaces him.

In a letter to board members sent yesterday, Fair, appointed to the board by Gov. Jeb Bush, criticized the manner in which Scott handled Smith’s resignation. Fair essentially accuses Scott of usurping the board’s authority by forcing Smith to resign. The governor-appointed board is charged with hiring and firing commissioners. Fair said that Scott has not met with Smith since the governor took office in January.

Fair wrote that he is “alarmed by the Governor’s dismissive treatment of this Board, which after all, hired Eric Smith, but which was not consulted, regarding the Governor’s desire to divest the State of his services.”

The board is holding an emergency meeting tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. “relating to discussion and action the announced departures of the Commissioner of Education and Chair of the State Board of Education,” the Department of Education advised in a press release today.

But Fair said the meeting is a farce.

“In fact, the notion that this Board should immediately commence a “national search” for a new Commissioner, flies in the face of the reality that Governor Scott will choose his new Commissioner. This Board, including its new members, will merely provide the votes that affirm the Governor’s choice. Therefore, it seems pointless to put on a public display that gives the impression that the decision will ultimately rest with the Board,” he wrote.

Read Fair’s letter after the jump.

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