I’m an educator, a teacher. Like most Missouri teachers, I focus on students. Unlike most of them, I’ve been able to focus on all 918,000 of our students as Commissioner of Education.
It has been an opportunity that I will forever cherish.
The job of commissioner in Missouri is traditionally not a political role. But, at the moment, political forces are eclipsing educational decisions. Although I did not come to Jefferson City to engage in political fights, I am willing to fight for children and educators.
I began work in the state education department about a dozen years ago. In those early years I learned much about diversity of our state and the diversity of our schools. I became Commissioner to help teachers be more effective, to make schools stronger. And, while we have plenty of room for improvement, today in Missouri, teachers are more effective, schools are stronger.
Public education matters. Every child matters; rich or poor, urban, suburban or rural; those who easily excel and those who have disabilities. If we operate strong public schools, we produce a stronger Missouri; a state with higher achievement, with more talented workers, with better neighbors and with lower crime.
Missouri is my home; it is a great state because it has amazing, compassionate people. And our schools are the soul of our state.
I’m proud of the thousands of Missourians – educators, community leaders, parents, legislators – who have come together in the past few weeks in support of public education and Missouri’s children. Your voices were heard.
If you visit schools across the state as I have, you’ll see teachers enthusiastically challenging the status quo and finding innovative ways to help students learn. In the past few years, we’ve had strong debates as Missouri set rigorous standards for learning, built new tests to measure progress, set stronger requirements for teachers and held one another accountable for results.
I’ve also witnessed our school communities mourn the deaths of students or teachers, watched them rebuild after tornadoes and floods or feed hungry families. Our resiliency inspires me.
While I’m sad to leave a job I wasn’t ready to leave, I know Missouri will stay strong in its commitment to our children.
I want to thank the state board for its vision for students. I certainly want to thank my tireless colleagues at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. You worked every day for students and you had my back.
I met and worked with thousands of people across the state and beyond. You taught me, inspired me and worked so very hard for students in your communities. Thank you.
I am proud of what we collectively have achieved. I’m leaving the office in good shape so the next commissioner can achieve even more for Missouri students.