Former DOE leader and Kentucky ed commissioner to lead Atlanta-based advocacy board

After resigning as Kentucky's education commissioner, Stephen Pruitt will become the new president of the Southern Regional Education Board, an Atlanta based education organization.
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After resigning as Kentucky's education commissioner, Stephen Pruitt will become the new president of the Southern Regional Education Board, an Atlanta based education organization.

A familiar face in education returns to  Georgia. Former top Georgia Department of Education official Stephen L. Pruitt, most recently Kentucky commissioner of education, will become the new president of the Southern Regional Education Board in July.

While at GaDOE from 2003 to 2010, Pruit held several key posts, including associate superintendent for assessment and accountability and chief of staff  for then State School Superintendent Kathy Cox.

Pruitt resigned his Kentucky post last month, a reflection of growing tensions with Kentucky governor Matt Bevin.

As the Louisville Courier-Journal reported about his sudden exit:

The announcement came during a special meeting of the board in Frankfort after seven members were appointed Monday by Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican who already had appointed the other four current members.

Pruitt, who earned an annual salary of $240,000, was selected as commissioner in September 2015 — just two months before Bevin won the governor's race. Bevin was critical Tuesday of how Kentucky students have fared during Pruitt's tenure, citing concerns about a lack of improvement in closing the achievement gap.

The board's new chairman, Milton Seymore, said Pruitt was not pushed out, but the board was seeking a new direction. Seymore indicated that part of that new direction involves addressing "failing" urban schools.

Pruitt is heralded nationwide as an education leader. Both Republican and Democratic legislative leaders in Kentucky decried his resignation. "I would say this is a bad day for Kentucky," Republican state Rep. John “Bam” Carney of Campbellsville, told the Courier-Journal.

At the Southern Regional Education Board, Pruitt will replace longtime leader Dave Spence, who at 73, is retiring this summer.

Created in 1948 by Southern governors and legislatures, the Atlanta-based SREB works with member states to improve public education. Those states are Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

“Dr. Pruitt has amassed an extensive policy, assessment and instructional background in education at the local, state and national levels that will benefit this board and most importantly students across the 16 states represented by SREB,” said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, chair of the SREB board, in a statement released by SREB today. “This is the only regional organization that encourages collaboration among governors, legislators and state education leaders when it comes to implementing sound policies that positively impact children from early childhood through postsecondary education, and I look forward to working with Dr. Pruitt in building on its success.”

“I am honored by the opportunity to lead the Southern Regional Education Board, which has long been a driving force in improving education in the states,” Pruitt said in the SREB statement. “I will work to ensure that each student from pre-K through postsecondary has access to an equitable and rigorous education that prepares them for their chosen careers.”

The statement provided this background:

Stephen Pruitt started his education career as a high school chemistry teacher in Fayette County, Georgia. He served in several leadership roles at the Georgia Department of Education, including associate superintendent for assessment and accountability and chief of staff. As senior vice president for Achieve, a nonpartisan education organization, he worked closely with state agencies and educators around the country to improve science education.

A native of Georgia, Pruitt holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of North Georgia, a master's degree in science education from the University of West Georgia and a doctoral degree in chemistry education from Auburn University.

"We congratulate Dr. Stephen Pruitt on his selection as president of the Southern Regional Education Board," said Glen D. Johnson, chancellor of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and chair of the SREB presidential search committee. "Dr. Pruitt's professional expertise includes a unique blend of academic and administrative experience coupled with frequent opportunities to interact with lawmakers in support of a wide cross-section of key public education initiatives. His leadership will be a tremendous asset to the SREB Board, staff and the 16 SREB member states as we begin the transition into this new chapter in the history of SREB."

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