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Commissioner search ends

Robert Hammond, who’s been serving as commissioner of education since December, is the sole finalist for the permanent job and is expected to be formally hired by the State Board of Education next week.

During a brief teleconference Monday afternoon, the board voted 7-0 to name Hammond sole finalist, choosing him over Aurora Superintendent John Barry. The board had voted 7-0 on April 21 to name the two as finalists.

The announcement effectively ends the search that began last November when Commissioner Dwight Jones resigned to become superintendent in Las Vegas, Nev. The board hired the firm of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates of Rosemont, Ill., to conduct a national search and vet candidates. The firm was paid $29,500.

State law requires 14 days elapse between the naming of finalists and a selection, and that clock started running on April 21. The board could formally hire Hammond as of May 5 but is expected to do so at its May meeting next week.

In a statement, board Chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District, said, “Once he is named commissioner, we will need to rally around him and make him the best in the country.”

Board member Elaine Gantz Berman, D-1st District, said, “We were very fortunate to have two outstanding finalists . . . who were both well-known in the state and highly respected. We had long deliberations . . . It was a very difficult decision.”

Prior to being brought into the department by Jones in 2008 as deputy superintendent, Hammond was the chief operations officer of the Boulder Valley schools and was an administrator in the Wichita, Kan., schools.

As deputy commissioner, he oversaw a significant cleanup of CDE’s compliance with federal financial rules and supervised improvements in department data systems, including the Colorado Growth Model.

Since being named to fill Jones’ job, Hammond has launched a reorganization to focus the department on educator effectiveness initiatives and also devoted some attention to the rising challenges facing the state’s rural districts. (See Hammond bio.)

The new commissioner faces a long list of recent education legislation to implement, including the 2008 Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids and the 2010 educator effectiveness law.

Reaction to the news was positive.

Aurora Superintendent John Barry

Aurora Superintendent John Barry

In a statement, Barry said, “I would like to offer my congratulations to our new commissioner. I offer him my full support. I look forward to continuing as the superintendent of Aurora Public Schools.”

Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster and a former member of the state board, said, “After he was hired as deputy commissioner, Dwight Jones kept giving him more and more duties. By the time he became acting commissioner, he knew the department very well. He is absolutely qualified.”

While praising Barry as a reform leader, Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, said, “I will happily support Mr. Hammond since he was selected by a board that I respect.”

Van Schoales, executive director of Education Reform Now, said, “Robert will be a very good choice because of his demonstrated commitment to making Senate Bill 10-191 work. … It’s a good choice for continuing the trajectory that the state’s been on.”

Bruce Caughey, executive director of the Colorado Association of School Executives, said Hammond “has the ability to focus on key priorities to help propel students to success.”

“We look forward to learning his vision for the future of education reform in Colorado, and working closely with him to continue advancing the charter school policy landscape for the benefit of all of Colorado’s kids,” said Vincent Badolato, lobbyist for the Colorado League of Charter Schools.

“We wish him the best and will support him and all parties dedicated to delivering the rich, well-rounded 21st century education that all Colorado children deserve,” said Beverly Ingle, president of the Colorado Education Association.