Concord Monitor: “Education commissioner denies he politicized job interview”

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After Karin Cevasco’s opinion column in yesterday’s edition of the Concord Monitor about her experience interviewing for the Department of Education position to lead the state’s charter school office, there has been more public dialogue about the nature and scope of the new role.

According to the Monitor, Commissioner Edelblut, “confirmed that the position would be amended, but said that while charter schools would be the job’s principal responsibility, non-public schools and homeschooling would remain be under its purview”. Here’s more of the Monitor’s coverage:

“New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut denies politicizing an interview with an applicant for a position to lead the state’s charter school office.

But the two Democrats on New Hampshire’s five-member Executive Council say the complaints from the job applicant, made public in an opinion column in the Monitor, further raise alarms that Edelblut’s acting “overtly political” and may be asked to “tamp down” on such activity…

Asked by the Monitor about the job applicant’s criticism of Edelblut, [Governor] Sununu said he was not familiar with the opinion piece.

But he said that “overall I’m happy with his (Edelblut’s) performance.”

Cevasco said the posting for the charter school position states the responsibilities of the position include providing “assistance to stakeholders in other school choice opportunities,” and “developing or revising school choice policies…”

Concord Democratic Sen. Dan Feltes, the prime sponsor of the legislation that created the charter school position, said he’d talked with Edelblut about the job’s scope of duties.

“After discussing this with Commissioner Edelblut, my understanding is the job description will be modified to reflect (the law), which lays out duties and charges of the charter school position and was the product of hard work by a wide range of stakeholders and legislators of both parties,” he said.

Edelblut confirmed that the position would be amended, but said that while charter schools would be the job’s principal responsibility, non-public schools and homeschooling would remain be under its purview…

Matt Southerton, the head of the New Hampshire Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said he’d earlier expressed concern about the charter school job posting because it made mention of broader school choice options when legislative language that established the position only referred to charter schools.

“The position described in the notice did not seem to align with the language that was passed by the state Legislature and … no single person could be expected to carry out all these duties,” he said.

The department badly needs a charter school coordinator, he said. The charter school office at the department has been basically unstaffed since 2014, he said, with no one point-person available for charter school candidates to ask questions about starting a school, or for existing operations to get help navigating state and federal laws.

“Some schools have expressed concern that there is no charter school person at the department who can answer basic, let alone highly technical, questions related to public charter schools,” he said.

Southerton said it was his understanding that the position was intended to be administrative and not political – as it should be.

“It is really a question of credibility and public trust. It is in the best interest of the department and those that they serve for all program administrators to remain politically neutral, in my opinion,” he said.

Below, is the legislative language for the position (RSA 21-N:4, XII, found here):

XII. No later than October 1, 2017, establish a chartered public school program officer position which shall be a classified position. The commissioner shall include a new classified chartered public school program officer classified position in its efficiency expenditure request pursuant to RSA 9:4 for the biennium ending June 30, 2019 and every biennium thereafter. The chartered public school program officer shall:
(a) Answer inquiries regarding charter public schools.
(b) Act as a liaison between chartered public schools and the department of education.
(c) Ensure that a chartered public school is implementing its charter mission.
(d) Provide training for interested parties on the governance of chartered public schools and the development of chartered public school policy.
(e) Assist the chartered public school in identifying and securing alternative funding sources.
(f) Receive and evaluate progress reports from chartered public schools, identify best practices for instruction and management in chartered public schools, and develop a process to share such best practices with other public schools.
(g) Act as the liaison between chartered public schools and the United States Department of Education.
(h) Act as the liaison between chartered public school advocacy groups and interested parties.
(i) Act as the liaison between chartered public schools and other public schools in the chartered public school’s geographic region.
(j) Work closely with the resident school districts and chartered public schools to assure appropriate support for students with disabilities.

Source: Education commissioner denies he politicized job interview | Concord Monitor