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Education department chief of staff chosen as interim commissioner, Crandall discusses sudden exit

Katy Anthes (photo by Nic Garcia).
Katy Anthes (photo by Nic Garcia).

Katy Anthes, the Colorado Department of Education’s widely respected chief of staff, was tapped Friday to temporarily lead the state agency after former Commissioner Rich Crandall’s surprise resignation a day earlier.

The State Board of Education, which met by teleconference, unanimously appointed Anthes as interim commissioner at an emergency meeting. The board also formally accepted Crandall’s resignation after initially meeting in closed session.

Anthes’ appointment represents an about-face for her. On Monday, she wrote to colleagues that she was leaving the agency after five years, joining other top staff who have announced departures recently. Anthes’ last day was supposed to be in mid-June.

Speaking to reporters after her appointment, Anthes described her earlier resignation announcement as a “personal decision” and did not elaborate. She pledged that she was ready to get to work and that the department would not skip a beat.

“I’m really honored and excited the board has the confidence in me to lead the department through this transition,” she said. “So I’m excited to get to work on this transition on Monday.”

Anthes declined to say whether she would consider applying for the position on a permanent basis. She’ll be paid at an annual rate of $225,000 a year. The board did not discuss any details of the search for a commissioner.

State officials on Friday would not release details of Crandall’s separation agreement, saying it would be made available after state board chairman Steve Durham and a representative from the state controller’s office signed the paperwork.

Crandall came in with little experience heading a large state bureaucracy but impressed board members with his business background. A former Republican lawmaker from Arizona, Crandall also served briefly as the education commissioner of Wyoming before that post was eliminated. He was the state board’s sole finalist and was to earn an annual salary of $255,000.

In a statement Thursday, Crandall cited his large family living out of state and the demands of the commissioner’s job as reasons for his resignation.

He offered some elaboration in an interview Friday with Chalkbeat. But Crandall declined to discuss his relationship with the State Board of Education, which unanimously voted in December to hire him.

Tensions between Crandall and board surfaced at a public hearing in April, when board members questioned Crandall’s aggressive plans to take advantage of new freedoms to states granted by the nation’s new primary K-12 education law, the Every Child Succeeds Act, or ESSA.

“I was looking forward to working with numerous groups in Colorado, the BOCES (Boards of Cooperative Educational Services), the advocacy groups, school boards — everybody — to see ESSA be implemented in the most positive way in Colorado,” Crandall said Friday.

Board members have not commented on Crandall’s departure other than one prepared statement from Durham. One board member said Friday members had been instructed to refer questions to an outside public relations representative on contract with the department.

Crandall told Chalkbeat the recent resignation announcements from the department played no role in his decision to leave.

“Katy Anthes is fantastic,” he said of his interim replacement. “I can only say good about her.”

Before becoming chief of staff, Anthes served as interim Commissioner for Achievement and Strategy and the executive director of educator effectiveness. She joined the department in 2011 and oversaw the state’s rollout of a landmark teacher evaluation law.

Anthes holds a Ph.D. in public policy and a master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Colorado Denver. She did her undergraduate work at the University of Oregon.

Crandall acknowledged that some CDE staff members expressed frustration that he had difficulty prioritizing his many ideas or articulating clearly what he wanted to accomplish.

However, Crandall said “Colorado’s future is extremely bright” because of the department’s staff and a number of groups he singled out by name: The Colorado Education Initiative, the Public Education and Business Coalition, the Gates Family Foundation, the Rose Community Foundation and the Donnell-Kay Foundation. (The last three are funders of Chalkbeat Colorado).

“There’s a lot to be done in education,” Crandall added.

One of the most significant tasks that lies ahead: work to improve Colorado’s failing schools.

The education department and state board are preparing to develop new strategies to boost student achievement, with the commissioner and his or or her staff playing a key role.

“By June 2017, these schools have to be on a much better path and trajectory,” Crandall said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported when Anthes joined the department. She joined in 2011, not 2001.

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