BOSTON (State House News Service) - A top Patrick administration education official has resigned in the wake the Board of Early Education and Care's request for an inquiry into her internship with the Ware public schools.
The resignation Monday of Early Education and Care Commissioner Sherri Killins came amid a major push by Patrick for new taxes that he hopes will infuse the education system, from pre-school through college, with new revenues and investments.
The Boston Herald first reported that Killins, who earned nearly $200,000 last year, was involved in a time-consuming superintendent training internship with the Ware Public Schools. A Patrick administration spokesman told the Herald questions raised about Killins were distracting from her work.
After a request for information from the Board of Early Education and Care on Friday, Matt Wilder, the new spokesman for the Executive Office of Education, confirmed to the News Service Monday afternoon that Education Secretary Matt Malone was involved in an ongoing inquiry into Killins' internship. At 6:30 p.m. on Monday, a board official informed the News Service that a board meeting planned for Tuesday had been cancelled. After a request for a reason for the cancellation, Wilder responded at 11:30 pm. Monday, saying it was cancelled "late this afternoon" after the board learned Killins would not be attending. "Late this afternoon Commissioner Killins submitted her resignation," Wilder wrote.
In a statement, Malone said he had on Monday afternoon appointed Tom Weber, state undersecretary of education, as acting commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care "to oversee day-to-day operations of the agency." Malone said Weber "has the skill to advance the agency's ambitious agenda."
According to a meeting agenda, the board on Tuesday was scheduled to hear from chairman J.D. Chesloff, who requested the inquiry, as well as from Killins and Secretary Malone, with an opportunity for comments for the public. Among action items on the agenda were a discussion of an early learning challenge under the federal Race to the Top program.
Wilder also released statements from Chesloff and Malone, who this year took over for former Education Secretary Paul Reville.
"Commissioner Killins leaves an agency that has made great progress toward ensuring all of our youngest citizens have a strong foundation for learning," Malone said. "I am confident Tom [Weber] and the team at EEC will continue to push to expand early learning opportunities for children across the commonwealth. I thank Commissioner Killins for her service and wish her well as she continues her advocacy on behalf of children."
Said Chesloff: "On behalf of the Department of Early Education and Care's Board of Directors, we extend our appreciation to Commissioner Killins for her strong advocacy on behalf of children and families throughout the commonwealth. Commissioner Killins is passionate about improving the lives of children, and we wish her the best in her future endeavors. Governor Patrick has made early education a top priority, highlighting the importance of giving children in every region of the state an opportunity for a brighter future. The team of talented professionals at the Department of Early Education and Care, as well as the dedicated people in the field, remain committed to that goal."
In his fiscal 2014 budget proposal, Patrick has called on the Legislature to approve $56.75 million to provide universal access to early education programs by eliminating the wait list for qualified children from birth to age five by fiscal 2017. Patrick is also seeking, as part of his plan to raise taxes and invest in education, $60.5 million to improve the quality of early education programs.
Copyright State House News Service