The panel searching for Connecticut’s next education commissioner wants someone who has a long background and an advanced degree in education – qualifications the last commissioner did not have and which one of the state’s teachers’ unions called for during the campaign.

“Preferred experience includes a minimum of 10 years in a high-level educational leadership role, and an advanced degree in education,” reads the announcement posted by the panel, which is made up of the voting members of the State Board of Education and a representative of the governor.

The last state education commissioner, Stefan Pryor, had a law degree and a background in economic development and experience opening a charter school. The administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s relationship with teachers fractured in 2012 after Malloy and Pryor proposed several controversial initiatives to change teacher evaluations, tenure and collective bargaining in the lowest-performing schools.

The panel is asking for applications by Feb. 4 so it can conduct interviews and forward their nomination to Malloy shortly after. The job announcement lists the desired start date as March 2015.

The chairman of the state board said Malloy’s office will be involved long before the nomination reaches his desk.

“Before we make that recommendation, we would make sure it was someone the governor could live with,” said Allan B. Taylor, board chairman. “It’s a collaboration.”

The last time the state looked for an education commissioner, few applied, and the state had to extend the deadline.

Taylor said he thinks that will not be the case this time around.

“I think we will attract more candidates now. The work over the last several years has raised Connecticut’s reputation nationally,” said Taylor, who has had five commissioners lead the State Department of Education during his tenure on its governing board.

Two names already have been floated to fill the position. The Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission is backing Nivea Torres, the current superintendent of the state’s vocational-technical high schools. The state’s largest teachers’ union – the Connecticut Education Association — is recommending former New London Superintendent Christopher Clouet for the position.

According to Malloy’s spokesman Mark Bergman, the governor and lieutenant governor have yet to interview anyone for education commissioner, but his chief of staff and education advisor have talked to several candidates, including Nivea Torres.

Mark Pazniokas contributed to this report.

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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