Scott taps former Vermont educator as ed secretary

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont Gov. Phil Scott named the state's new education secretary Thursday. Daniel French is a former high school social studies teacher, principal and superintendent. He most recently worked as the coordinator of the School Leadership Graduate Program at St. Michael's College.

The governor's first term in office has featured dramatic education proposals that have been soundly rejected by the Democratic-led Legislature. Now, Scott will lean on French to help him advance his education priorities.

"The fact is it's time to have the courage to admit we can achieve better outcomes for kids and attract more families and that is why I'm appointing Dan to be our very next secretary of education," said Scott, R-Vermont.

French will succeed Rebecca Holcombe, who resigned in March. The circumstances were murky but it is apparent that Holcombe-- who was first appointed by former Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin-- and Scott had significant policy disagreements. That won't be a problem anymore; French says he's on board with the governor's most recent proposals.

"Through the search process that's one of the things I had to check on. I'm very attracted to the strategic nature of the governor's plan," French said.

The State Board of Education picked three finalists from 14 candidates. The governor picked French from that group of three.

"It was our pleasure as a state board to put forward three highly qualified candidates. I think the tough job as governor was picking among the three," said Krista Huling of the Vermont Board of Education.

French says he wants to build off of a school governance law that has consolidated districts.

"Act 46 has been very successful in moving us down a path toward right-sizing our governance structure," he said. "I believe now we must consider how we leverage this work to transform our system into a world-class education system."

Scott says he plans to try pitching lawmakers on more education reforms in January and French will be a key player in what the administration comes up with.