“Heart of a teacher:” Likely Education Commissioner Dr. Stephen Pruitt hailed for experience at local, state, national levels, focus on standards-based student learning

KSBA eNews Service, Frankfort, Sept. 8, 2015

Final check of Pruitt could be complete within the week; new commissioner may be on board by early October
by Brad Hughes

If all goes as expected with an ongoing final background check, Dr. Stephen L. Pruitt could be in Frankfort on the job as Kentucky’s sixth commissioner of education within the month.

Pruitt, a Washington, D.C., education standards expert with extensive experience ranging from Georgia classrooms to that state’s Department of Education, was identified late Friday as the presumptive choice to succeed recently retired Commissioner Terry Holliday. Pruitt became the “likely” commissioner-to-be after his fellow finalist, former Illinois Superintendent of Education Christopher Koch, withdrew his candidacy Friday. No reason was given for Koch’s decision.

Kentucky Board of Education Chairman Roger Marcum told eNews during the weekend that the in-depth background check of Pruitt is underway and could be completed by the end of this week.

“As soon as the background check is complete, I intend to call a special meeting, based on the availability of KBE members,” Marcum said in an email interview. “Dr. Pruitt has indicated he could begin (the job) a week after all the steps in the hiring process are complete. I would hope he could be present for the Oct. 6 KBE meeting.”

Pruitt has worked in the nation’s capital for Achieve, Inc. since 2010, rising to his current post of senior vice president. In that role, he has worked with state education officials on development of English/ language arts, math, and science Common Core standards. He assisted KDE staff in creating the state's new core science standards and related classroom materials.

Pruitt started his career in education in 1991 as an AP and college prep chemistry teacher at a high school in Tyrone, Ga. He taught AP chemistry and gifted chemistry while he was department chair at a Fayetteville, Ga. high school until 2003.

In 2003, Pruitt joined the Georgia Department of Education as a science and program manager. He later served as the agency’s director of academic standards, associate superintendent for assessment and accountability, and chief of staff.

Marcum, a former teacher, administrator and superintendent, said he was struck both by Pruitt’s qualifications on paper but also his in-person qualities.

“(I was impressed by) Dr. Pruitt's experience in developing standards and assessment/accountability at the state and national level; also, his experience as a teacher,” Marcum said. “Both give a comprehensive understanding and perspective on improving student achievement through a standards-based approach.”

“He has the heart of a teacher,” Marcum said. “He places high value on building relationships. His communication skills coupled with his knowledge make him a highly qualified leader.”

Interim Commissioner of Education Kevin C. Brown is in charge at the Department of Education until the new commissioner begins his duties.

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