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For Immediate Release
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Contact:Heidi Guarino 781-223-1902 (cell)

Board of Education Names Ohio Policy Leader New Commissioner of Education

BOSTON - The Board of Education wrapped up a nationwide search for the next leader of the state's public schools on Thursday when they voted unanimously to name a top Ohio policymaker the Commonwealth's 23rd commissioner of education.

Mitchell Dan Chester is the Senior Associate State Superintendent for the Ohio Department of Education. He has a background in assessment, accountability, education policy and strategic planning. The Board voted 9-to-0 to appoint him to the job, and negotiations will begin immediately. No start date has been determined.

"I am looking forward to working with Mitchell Chester. He has shown a strong commitment to children and educational excellence throughout his career," said Governor Patrick. "I am confident that Chester offers the range of experience and quality of judgment we need to move the Commonwealth's public schools forward."

"I commend the Board on their process and unwavering commitment to excellence in education," said Dana Mohler-Faria, education advisor to Gov. Patrick. "I am excited by the range of experience and enthusiasm for education that Mitchell Chester offers. Chester is an outstanding choice from an exceptional pool of finalists."

Board of Education Chairman Paul Reville agreed.

"This was a very tough choice, because we had three extraordinary candidates, but I am thrilled that we agreed unanimously on our decision," he said. "In the end we chose Mitchell Chester because of his extensive national, state and local experience, as well as the fit between his background and perspective with the Board's upcoming agenda. We are very eager to begin our work together."

Chester, 55, a Connecticut native, said he is looking forward to a return to the Northeast.

"I am excited to be selected for the Commissioner's position, and honored to have the confidence of the state Board of Education," he said. "Former Commissioner David Driscoll has provided a strong base from which to start and my challenge is to take the state education system to the next level. I look forward to serving the students, parents, educators, and citizens of Massachusetts."

Chester began his career as an elementary school classroom teacher. In 1988 he was named a senior assessment associate for the Connecticut Department of Education, and in 1993 was made Education Bureau Chief of the state's Bureau of Curriculum and Instructional Programs. He served as Executive Director of Accountability and Assessment for the Philadelphia Public Schools from 1997 to 2001.

He moved to Ohio in 2001 to take on the role of Assistant and later Associate State Superintendent for Policy and Accountability. He remained in this role until 2006, when he was promoted to his current position of Senior Associate State Superintendent for the Ohio Public Schools. He currently works closely with Ohio State Superintendent Susan Zelman, and is responsible for education policy development, the state's accountability systems, alignment of federal and state policy and strategic planning for the agency.

"This is Massachusetts' gain and Ohio's loss," Zelman said. "Mitch is a terrific professional and human being."

Chester was one of 16 people who applied to be the state's next Commissioner of Education. Late last year the Board of Education narrowed the pool to eight semifinalists, who were interviewed by the Board in December. On December 19 three finalists were named: Chester, Lowell Superintendent Karla Brooks Baehr and Wallace Foundation Education Director Richard Laine.

The three finalists were publicly interviewed by the Board and an advisory committee of 30 community leaders, parents, educators and legislators on January 7.

Chester will replace former Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll, who retired in August 2007 after leading the state's public schools for eight years. Since his retirement, Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey Nellhaus has been serving as Acting Commissioner. He will remain in that position until Chester begins.

Commissioner of Education Search
Chronology of Events
10/30/06David Driscoll announces plans to retire in August, 2007.
2/15/07National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) is awarded $50,000 contract to conduct Massachusetts search.
4/24/07Board of Education appoints Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey Nellhaus to serve as Acting Commissioner beginning September 1, until a permanent Commissioner is selected.
5/21/07NASBE sets up website to invite written comment on the search from members of the public.
8/22/07Governor Patrick names Paul Reville new chairman of the Board of Education
8/28/07Paul Reville chairs his first Board of Education meeting; pledges to move forward on selecting a new Commissioner immediately.
8/31/07Commissioner Driscoll's last day.
9/1/07Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey Nellhaus takes over as Acting Commissioner.
9/26/07Board of Education holds special meeting to discuss search and job description.
9/27/07Board of Education holds open forum at Central High School in Springfield
9/28/07Board of Education holds focus groups with selected leaders in education and members of stakeholder groups.
10/5/07Board of Education holds open forum at Gardner Auditorium in the Statehouse.
10/22/07Job listing posted nationally.
11/30/07Application deadline
12/4/07Board of Education selects eight semifinalists from a pool of 16 applicants.
12/19/07Board of Education selects three finalists: Lowell Superintendent Karla Brooks Baehr, Ohio Deputy Commissioner Mitchell Dan Chester, and Wallace Foundation Education Director Richard Laine.
12/27/07Advisory committee of 30 educators, legislators, parents, students and key stakeholders set up to publicly interview finalists.
1/7/08The three finalists are publicly interviewed by the BOE and two 15-member advisory committees; each candidate has a private meeting with Governor Patrick.
1/17/08Board of Education votes 9-0 to appoint Mitchell Dan Chester as Commissioner of Education.

Last Updated: January 17, 2008
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