Top education official resigns, citing ‘stress’

Saying the stress of the job had become too much, State Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan announced his resignation today, one day after a public outburst that stunned members of a panel appointed to make recommendations on school financing.

“I reached this decision yesterday when I realized that I no longer wanted to do this work and saw all too plainly that the stresses of my job are more than they should be and more than I am willing to accept,” McQuillan, 62, wrote in a letter to state Board of Education members and other education officials.

On Monday a panel composed of representatives of unions, businesses, municipalities and education groups met to begin drafting some of their final recommendations on how schools should be financed by the state. McQuillan opened the meeting by saying he wanted to defer that discussion until January.

mcquillan and taylor

Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan (r) and State Board of Education chairman Allan Taylor

As various members of the group objected to the delay, McQuillan showed increasing irritation.

“Do you want to run this meeting?” he finally snapped at board chairman Allan Taylor. When Taylor said yes, McQuillan raised his voice and said, “No, I am running this meeting.”

He quickly adjourned the meeting and was out the door in seconds, leaving the room of about 30 people stunned.

People familiar with the episode said two events likely contributed to McQuillan’s outburst.

One was the fact that Gov.-elect Dan Malloy‘s transition team for education had scheduled a meeting at the same time McQuillan’s group was to convene. The majority of the members of the school finance panel were late because of the transition meeting.

McQuillan also was taken off guard when a group of finance panel members presented him with their own set of recommendations shortly before the meeting began.

Taylor said he was surprised by McQuillan’s actions.

“I am sorry it happened that way,” he said.

McQuillan has up until today said he intends to lobby to remain the state’s education commissioner. McQuillan has been the commissioner for the last four years. His term was set to expire at the end of the year, but the state board members voted to keep him on until Malloy has decided who he wants as the next education leader.

Malloy has said McQuillan is a strong contender for the position but said he is also looking elsewhere to fill the position. During a recent trip to Washington he asked U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan for names of possible candidates.

The decision will ultimately be up to the 11-member State Board of Education, but Malloy will get to begin appointing eight of those members when he takes office Jan. 5. McQuillan’s resignation is effective the same day. Whomever the board selects will need to then be approved by the full General Assembly.

“I’m focused on working with the State Board of Education to find an interim replacement while the search for a permanent replacement goes on,” Malloy said reacting to McQuillan’s decision to step down.