The purge at the Idaho State Department of Education has begun. The incoming superintendent, Tom Luna, has begun the process of dismantling restructuring the Department by firing 19 top level administrators, including key Bureau Chiefs and Coordinators. In addition to the 19, 8 more have resigned. Outgoing Superintendent Marilyn Howard identified the 27 in a memo sent out Monday to Idaho Superintendents, Principals, Business Managers, Charter School Directors, Title I Directors, Special Education Directors, Testing Coordinators and Technology Coordinators. According to Howard, this is just the “first wave of firings.”
Of course, it is to be expected that there will be changes when a new Superintendent takes office. Nevertheless, the Luna purge is especially troubling for two reasons. First, the sheer numbers. Luna’s cuts go deep into a number of critical Bureaus at the Department. In the Bureau of Educational Improvement and Innovation, for example, not only was Bureau Chief, Pat White, fired, but the Coordinators for Health Education, Mathematics, English/Language Arts and Civics are gone. These subject area coordinators played a vital role in helping school districts plan, revise and implement curricula. This was particularly important for small districts that could not afford to hire curriculum coordinators at the district level. Even if Luna replaces each of these coordinators with excellent candidates, there are long range plans and initiatives that will be jeopardized because of a lack of ownership on the part of the new coordinators.
Secondly, the targeted Bureaus are in curriculum, assessment, special education, technology and professional standards. Losses in each of these areas will have both immediate and long term impact on Idaho school districts. Sally Tiel, the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment was fired. NCLB and the fact that schools are judged based upon student performance on statewide achievement tests makes this position one of utmost concern for all school districts. The Special Education Bureau Chief, Director, Coordinator for Federal Programs, and Special Education Technology are all gone. This should strike fear in the hearts of district Special Education personnel who will have to wade through the thicket of Federal Special Education rules and regulations without the help of experienced employees at the State Department. The Bureau Chief and Coordinator for Technology Services are gone. Given the fact that everything from ISAT testing to applying for “e-rate” funding from the Feds is done on-line, the loss of expertise in this Bureau will be devastating for districts.
In my mind, the most frightening of the Luna firings are those of Dr. Mike Stefanic, Bureau Chief of the Bureau of Certification/Professional Standards and Dr. Patty Toney, Coordinator, Professional Standards and Certification. If Luna replaces them with Idaho State Board lackeys, we can watch as teacher certification requirements are dismantled to require nothing more than passing the absurd ABCTE test for teacher certification. Dr. Toney is the main author of a state department plan to assure rigorous criteria for Idaho teachers to be “highly qualified” as required by NCLB. I suspect that her excellent work will ignored in the Luna era.