Murray State University President Dr. Randy Dunn has been selected as one of three finalists to be the next Florida Education Commissioner.
According to Florida Department of Education spokeswoman Tiffany Cowie, Dunn and the other two candidates will be interviewed Tuesday at the Tampa Airport Marriott. The interview is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., and the board is expected to choose the commissioner the next day.
According to the Associated Press, the Florida Board of Education in September extended the search for a new commissioner until Nov. 30 after board members were dissatisfied with the initial round of applicants. Dunn submitted his application on that day and was one of 60 people to apply for the position. The other two finalists include outgoing Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and education consultant Charles Hokanson Jr.
The job of appointed education commissioner is one of the most high-profile education jobs in the state, with the commissioner being in charge of Florida’s primary and secondary education systems in addition to the state’s universities and community colleges. The next person hired will have to help the state transition to new testing standards and a merit pay system for school teachers, the AP reported.
In an emailed statement, Dunn said, “At the strong urging of a search firm whose consultants I know and respect, I felt it wise to submit my name for the Florida Commissioner’s position in literally the final hours of the application window. I have shared publicly that until such time the Murray State Board offers a reasonable contract extension, I would need to look carefully at select, exceptional career opportunities when they arise. This is one of those. There’s been no contract action at MSU to date, or suggestion of any to take place soon, so I think I owe it to my own career path to keep all options open.
“The Florida Commissioner of Education job would be an attractive one for someone with similar background and experience. Because it’s a unified PK-16 system — combining elementary and secondary education with the Florida College System — it would be in my wheelhouse, having worked across those educational levels. And like Illinois, where I previously served as State Superintendent, Florida is a geographically expansive state with a large and diverse population located in urban, suburban, and rural school districts and colleges.”
Dunn has been MSU president since 2006. At its November meeting, the MSU Faculty Senate passed a resolution in support of Dunn and urged the university’s board of regents to take action on his contract, which is currently due to expire in 2014 unless the board votes to extend it.
In his application letter for the Florida education commissioner’s job, Dunn stated that he would serve as an “a visible and effective ambassador” who would be innovative and would work to improve the state’s education reputation, the AP reported.
Bennett is a Republican who was ousted last month by Indiana voters after he spent four years putting in place changes modeled on those pushed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that Bennett and Bush are close, and the AP reported that Bennett is a member of a coalition of state school officials operated by Bush’s education foundation.
“Your state was the leader in starting this movement of making decisions based solely on kids, and I would like to take Florida to the next level,” Bennett wrote in his letter to Florida officials about the job.