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Gerard Robinson Takes Florida Education Helm

June 20, 2011 - 6:00pm

Virginia Education Secretary Gerard Robinson was selected Tuesday as the new education commissioner for the Florida Department of Education.

Robinson, one of five finalists for the position, was unanimously chosen by the five DOE board members. He has served as head of education in Virginia since last year, after being tapped by Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell.

He succeeds Eric Smith, who resigned as commissioner earlier this month, saying he did not receive support from Florida Gov. Rick Scott for his extended tenure. Former commissioner John Winn has served as interim commissioner for the past two weeks.

Smith earned a salary of $275,000 per year, but the details of Robinson's compensation were not discussed at the board meeting when he was selected, a DOE spokesperson said.

Scott, an advocate of increased charter school and voucher opportunities for students, gave Robinson, who implemented similar policies in Virginia, his full backing.

"Gerard brings to Florida a long and remarkable set of accomplishments in innovation and proven results that will help us continue putting children first, improving our schools and ensuring Florida has the best-educated work force. His leadership as an experienced education reformer and advocate for school choice and closing the achievement gap is exactly what Florida needs to reach the next level of education reforms that will benefit both our students and the businesses of our state," Scott said.

Robinsons background seems to line up nicely with Scotts education priorities of greater school choice, promotion of charter schools and creating a highly-educated, highly-skilled work force for businesses.

He earned his Master of Education degree from Harvard University, serves on the board of National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, helped a nonprofit organization open a charter school in New Jersey and was president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that promotes increased parental choice and higher quality educational options for African-American students.

Robinson was also welcomed to Florida by education and business leaders across the state.

Our state remains a national leader in education and we are fortunate to have an abundance of learning opportunities for our students. Commissioner Robinson has a wealth of experience and will undoubtedly help Florida outperform all other states at every educational level, said Dr. Ed Moore, president and CEO of Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida.

Business groups around the state are hoping Robinson will help keep standards high in Florida, bringing business with high-tech, high-wage jobs seeking a uniquely skilled and educated work force. Some of those jobs are already leaving Florida with the imminent demise of the space shuttle program this summer, as several thousand positions directly and indirectly related to the program have already been shed.

A strong and continuously growing pool of globally competitive workers will be a powerful magnet for businesses who hope to prosper in Florida. We look forward to working with Mr. Robinson as Florida continues to close the talent gap and build a highly skilled and educated work force that is ready to compete in the global marketplace, said Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson.

Reach Gray Rohrer at or at (850) 727-0859.

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