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Job Moves and Changes in Duties Bring Deputy Commissioner Back to DOE

Hespe says changes to organizational chart will streamline how department functions, allow better use of data, personnel

With the Christie administration nearing its final lap, the state Department of Education is shuffling jobs a little to consolidate some functions under a new position of deputy commissioner. (Click org chart to see full-size version. Use back button to return to story.)

State Education Commissioner David Hespe has named assistant commissioner Peter Shulman to the new deputy post, a second-ranking position available to commissioners but not always filled. This is the first time that Hespe has named a formal deputy.

Shulman had been the department’s chief talent officer for four years, first named under former commissioner Chris Cerf in 2012 and overseeing the administration’s often-contentious teacher improvement and evaluation efforts.

As deputy under the reorganization approved by the State Board of Education earlier this month, Shulman will also oversee student assessment and other school-performance functions that had previously been a separate division.

In addition, responsibility for working directly with the four state-controlled districts -- Newark, Camden, Paterson, and Jersey City -- would move to assistant commissioner Evo Popoff, now serving as chief innovation and intervention officer.

The moves follow the departure of Bari Erlichson as assistant commissioner and chief performance officer heading up assessment efforts -- led by the launch of the new PARCC tests -- in what was one of the department’s highest-profile roles.

Erlichson has stayed in the department, but as a special assistant to Hespe, working directly with individual districts.

David Hespe
Education Commissioner David Hespe

Hespe said in an interview yesterday that with Erlichson’s shift there was a natural progression to moving some of her accountability work with students and teachers under Shulman.

“I wanted to have a better sense of how we use data in the department, and it made sense to consolidate them,” Hespe said.

This is the second reorganization under Hespe, and there is likely to be more as he manages the department in its final years under Gov. Chris Christie.

Erlichson’s successor is Donald Mitchell, but he will now report to Shulman and oversee the use of student data to help direct improvements in teaching and learning, the department said.

Mitchell is a former program officer with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, focusing on research and data, and special assistant in the U.S. Department of Education.

Hespe said yesterday that Shulman’s step up -- which comes with no raise from his $138,000-a-year salary -- will help the department work across its traditional lines and enable different functions.

“Pete’s a great manager and leader, and can work with all the departments,” Hespe said. “He’s the right guy for the position.”

Hespe also said that the previous organization structure had a multitude of assistant commissioners and other directors reporting directly to him, whereas these changes would help streamline operations.

“The number, when also including the superintendents of the state-operated districts, was enormous, and this allowed us to consolidate that,” he said.

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