With “bittersweet feelings,” Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart submitted her resignation Tuesday, ending a five-year run at one of the largest education systems in the country.
She plans to retire Jan. 8, 2019.
The move was expected following the election of new governor Ron DeSantis, and rumblings in the media about a shift in the top education job, with former House Speaker Richard Corcoran a top contender.
Corcoran, 53, has been one of the most powerful House Speakers in decades and has represented influential and conservative Pasco County in the state Legislature. An attorney, he graduated from a small law school at Regent University, a private Christian university. He’s been a champion of nontraditional charter schools and voucher programs that allow kids to go to private schools.
Stewart spent nearly 40 years in education, starting out as a teacher and appointed as Florida Education Commissioner in 2013. The Florida Board of Education had wanted to extend Stewart’s position after the election, but that didn’t pan out.
In her resignation letter to the board chair, Stewart said she had an “amazing career in public education,” and “helped Florida students receive an ever-improving education.”
She cited gains in K-12 student achievement, more rigorous academic standards and tougher testing for kids.
Still, scores on recent college entrance exams — which show how much high school students know before graduating — have been stagnant and troubling, with most teens tested in the Class of 2018 not considered ready for freshman college classes in key academic subjects.