“President-Elect Joe Biden’s choice of Connecticut Commissioner of Education, Miguel Cardona, is good news for the millions of parents and students whose fates have been so derailed by the coronavirus this year. Had Biden picked a union leader or equivalent, it would have been akin to an act of war on the progress of the last three decades of pushing power to parents, and on those who have fought to get their kids educated this year, whether back in traditional schools or by their own hand,” said Jeanne Allen, the founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform. “Instead, his choice of Cardona is reminiscent of President George W. Bush’s choice of then-Houston Superintendent Rod Paige. Both were lesser-known, lifelong educators with a record. Paige understood that not every school is the right fit for every child — a sentiment that Cardona has expressed and will hopefully put into action fully.”
Appointed to the lead job in Connecticut in August of 2019, the 45-year-old Cardona spent most of his 15 months coping with the pandemic and the shuttering of schools. Cardona’s parents are from Puerto Rico. He grew up in in Meriden, Ct., and returned there to become a teacher and eventually one of Connecticut’s youngest school principals. Before being named state commissioner, Cardona had risen to assistant superintendent in his district.
Writing for Teach Connecticut in 2018, Cardona noted:
Like many first generation Latinos whose parents came from another country, I had to learn how to code-switch early. At first it was with language, but it soon became necessary for other nuances of the cultures in which I was immersed.
Navigating the dominant cultural norms in dress, idiomatic expressions and music, among other things, I was always reminded to stay proud and celebrate my Puerto Rican roots.
Like many, I remember what it felt like to be on the wrong side of a stereotype, and I felt it was my purpose in education to evolve the thinking of the next generation. Equity became a foundation for my passion around this time.
- Teach Connecticut, 2018
“I am thrilled to hear that President-Elect Biden plans to nominate Miguel A. Cardona, a state education chief who has dedicated his career to serving students and closing the achievement gap, to serve as the next U.S. Secretary of Education,” said Chief State School Officers CEO Carissa Moffat Miller in a statement. “Dr. Cardona has dedicated his career to creating a more equitable education system, and as Secretary of Education, I know he will continue to prioritize equity, particularly for historically marginalized students.”
Here is Cardona’s official bio with the Connecticut Department of Education:
Dr. Cardona comes to the State Department of Education with two decades of experience as a public-school educator from the city of Meriden. He began his career as an elementary school teacher and then served as a school principal for 10 years. Miguel transitioned to the central office to lead the work of performance and evaluation in the district. In 2013, he assumed the role of assistant superintendent for teaching and learning.
Dr. Cardona served as the co-chairperson of the Connecticut Legislative Achievement Gap Task Force as well as co-chairperson of the Connecticut Birth to Grade Three Leaders Council. He also taught for four years as an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut in the Department of Educational Leadership.
Dr. Cardona attended Meriden Public Schools and graduated from Wilcox Technical High School. Miguel attended Central Connecticut State University for his bachelor’s degree and UConn, where he completed his master’s in bilingual/bicultural education, Administrator Preparation Program, doctorate in Education, and Executive Leadership Program (superintendent) certificate.
A lifelong Meriden resident and product of its public schools, Miguel is very active in his community, having served or currently serving on several non-profit charitable organization boards of directors.
His greatest source of pride, however, is his family. Miguel and his beautiful wife, Marissa, are the proud parents of two children.