Governor Peter Shumlin has named Armando Vilaseca as Vermont’s first secretary of education.
Vilaseca has been education commissioner since 2009. But a new law that expands the department into a full state agency went into effect this week.
The governor said he will highlight education issues in his upcoming state of the state speech next week.
"We have an incredibly ambitious agenda coming up and his willingness to serve as the first secretary of education is going to be a great distinction for the state of Vermont," he said.
Shumlin said that he and Secretary Vilaseca will push again for schools to require that students take more math and geometry courses.
The governor said he has more power to mandate curriculum reforms now that the agency has been elevated to cabinet-level status. He said Vermont students need math and science skills to compete in today’s economy.
"If we don’t require algebra in ninth grade and geometry in 10th grade how do you expect us to do well in 11th grade on math tests and evaluations if you haven’t opened up a algebra book or geometry book?" he said.
Vilaseca will serve for up to one year. The Cuban-born educator said that was his choice. He said he had agreed to serve for five years when he first became education commissioner four years ago.
"One of the things I was hoping to do was to have some consistency in this position. We had had a revolving door of commissioners over the previous decade," he said. "One of the commitments I had made was to about five years. The governor asked me about that. I said I was still looking at that. Obviously, that is within my time frame."
Shumlin said he will launch a national search for a new education commissioner next summer. But he said for now, his focus is on implementing education reforms, with Vilaseca’s help.
Shumlin also announced six other staff changes, including the appointment of former Hardwick Representative Lucy Leriche as deputy secretary of Commerce and Community Development.
Another former lawmaker, Floyd Nease from Johnson, was named a director of systems integration at the Agency of Human Services.
Nease, who has long experience in the field, said his job will be to reduce paperwork and barriers to service.
"For 30 years I’ve been complaining about the way human services are delivered on the ground to families," he said. "And what the governor has offered here is an opportunity to make a difference."
In other job changes, Susan Bartlett, who had served as special assistant to the governor, will also move to the Human Services Agency as special projects coordinator. In that post, the governor said Bartlett will focus on ensuring that low-income Vermonters have access to skills and education to find good-paying jobs.
Irene Recovery Officer Sue Minter will return to her post as Deputy Transportation Secretary.
She will be replaced by Dave Rapaport, who has served as Minter’s deputy. And Susan Allen, who works as the governor’s press secretary, will also assume the post of deputy chief of staff.