Hanley: No ‘sour grapes’ over resigning as education chief

JUNEAU — Outgoing state education commissioner Mike Hanley said Friday that he had some professional disagreements with the state board of education. But he said that’s not a “sour grapes statement.”

“They’ve chosen a different path that requires somebody else,” Hanley said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I honor that and respect that.”

Gov. Bill Walker said Thursday that Hanley offered his resignation during a meeting Wednesday with Walker and state board chair James Fields, when it became clear where the board was headed. Walker said it had become evident in his conversations with the board chair that Hanley did not have the board’s support. Walker said he respected the board’s desire to retain Hanley as commissioner when he first took office and respected its desire for change in the department now.

Susan McCauley, director of the department’s teaching and learning support division, is set to serve as interim commissioner beginning March 1 while the board searches for a new commissioner.

When Hanley began his tenure five years ago, he said he walked into a “really strong friction.” People would characterize it as between urban and rural schools, he said. At the time, there were two long-running lawsuits. One dealt with low-performing schools and another with alleged inequities in funding for rural public schools.

Both cases were settled. He said he saw settlement as a way to change the conversation and “rather than looking at the needs of our kids by where they live, just figure out how to provide opportunities for everybody.” It’s always a conversation, but he thinks that’s been accomplished. He said he worked hard to build bridges.

He said he also is proud of raising expectations for kids, and that transitioning to new standards was the right thing to do.

The department in recent months faced criticism over a new computer-based test and issues including delayed reports and the level of information provided regarding student performance. The department announced in late January that it would issue a new request for proposals to replace the Alaska Measures of Progress assessment.

Fields said Thursday that the flap over the test didn’t weigh into wanting new leadership. Hanley made the right decision in moving away from the test and looking at a different assessment, he said.

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