Education commissioner leaving first week of January

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor (left)

File photo

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor (left)

Commissioner Stefan Pryor, the leader of the state Department of Education who helped craft controversial legislation during his tenure, will leave office the first week of January.

Pryor announced in August his intention to leave the post if Gov. Dannel P. Malloy won re-election.

The State Board of Education honored Pryor at their meeting in Hartford Wednesday, his last state board meeting. Pryor has been the commissioner since Sept. 2011.

“Connecticut is infinitely better off because Stefan Pryor has been our education commissioner,” Board Chairman Allan B. Taylor said.

The state board also voted to create a search committee that is tasked with recommending an interim commissioner by Jan. 7.

“The Connecticut State Board of Education accepts with deep regret the resignation of Stefan Pryor, and extends him appreciation for his service to the state of Connecticut,” states a resolution that the board is expected to approve today.

Teachers were dissatisfied with Pryor because of proposals he made to link teacher evaluations to standardized test results and for the state to intervene in the state’s lowest performing schools and possibly reassign teachers to another school.

The commissioner has also generated praise for the changes to law he championed, including the expansion of state-funded preschool seats, directing more state funding to the lowest-achieving schools, increasing the number of seats in magnet and charter schools and having school accountability measures focus on more than just test scores.

“Under Commissioner Pryor’s leadership, Connecticut embarked on a journey of significant change at a scale and pace that we have never before experienced,” Karissa L. Niehoff, the executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools, told the state board. “[He] has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to reducing the achievement gap; this mission seems to be at the core of his passion for education.”

Pryor, who wears a green bracelet that says “Sandy Hook Angels” as a reminder of the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown during his second year as education commissioner, said he is not ready to say what his next job will be.

He said he plans to make an announcement in the “coming weeks.”

The superintendent of Newtown at the time of the Sandy Hook tragedy also thanked the commissioner.

“He not only offered the support of his staff, but he was present constantly and was a great source of help as we had to make decisions for circumstances that were certainly not in any playbook,” Janet Robinson wrote in a letter to the commissioner.

Taylor, who has been the chairman of the State Board of Education since 2005 , said this commissioner has been very effective at getting reforms passed and finding consensus among diverse groups.

“We are all going to miss that,” Taylor told reporters.

The state board will recommend a replacement to the governor for consideration. Taylor said he does not have a timeline for when that will happen.

“The sooner the better,” he said.

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