Gov. Peter Shumlin is adding to his cabinet and is turning to a familiar face to do it.
"The secretary wouldn't be secretary of education if we hadn't worked very closely together when he was commissioner of education," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.
Thursday, Vermont Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca was named the state's first education secretary.
"It's a privilege and an honor to be the first secretary of education in Vermont," Vilaseca said.
The switch from commissioner to secretary aims to give the governor more control over education policy. Vilaseca will serve up to a year in the position and a search for a future secretary will begin this summer.
Reporter Keith McGilvery: We just completed a national search for this position, were you not pleased with the candidate pool that you saw? Why not seek someone for a longer term?
Gov. Peter Shumlin: Well, let me first say I was incredibly pleased with the three candidates the board sent to me.
The governor says he picked Vilaseca in part due to his focus on early childhood education and his commitment to boosting student achievement in math. The two agreed a 12-month appointment is what worked best. And Vilaseca says he'll move on after a year.
"I recognize that we ask commissioners and secretaries to work often seven days a week, sometimes six, long hours, we come in, we give it all we got and then we tend to want to move on to other challenges. That's certainly the case with the secretary," Shumlin said.
Vermont NEA President Martha Allen is pleased with the selection.
"We've been meeting on a monthly basis and working together on a variety of projects over the years and I am thrilled that we will be able to continue with that work," Allen said.
And Vilaseca's says he's no longer concerned about looking like a lame duck-- a concern he shared during the search process.
"I consider myself a full secretary and with the authority of the governor will continue to do my job as best I can," Vilaseca said.
The governor and secretary would not offer specifics about priorities moving forward, but both admitted there's plenty of work to do.
"Vermont has a wonderful educational system, but like any system, we can always improve," Vilaseca said.
"The opportunities are extraordinary and if we get it right, we prosper. And if we don't, we don't," Shumlin said.
The governor plans to outline shared goals with the secretary next week.
The two other finalists for the post were Brent Kay, the superintendent of the Orange Southwest Supervisory Union, and Daniel French, the superintendent of the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union.
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