Commissioner Shuffles Duties, Positions at State Department of Education

John Mooney | July 14, 2015 | Education
Changes by Hespe stem from shifts in administration’s priorities for last two years of Christie’s tenure

DOE org chart
Reflecting some internal shifts in priorities and personnel, the Christie administration has shuffled some positions in the state Department of Education, including a key new hire and a tweak in responsibilities.

Education Commissioner David Hespe told the state Board of Education last week that the department had hired a new communications and strategic planning director, expanded the duties of the chief innovations officer, and taken steps to better integrate the department’s vocational-centered offices into the academic track.

Such changes are hardly unusual, but they come at a time when Gov. Chris Christie and his commissioner are entering the final two years of the governor’s tenure in the state while he also launches a campaign for the White House.

Up to now, Hespe has made only nominal changes in the department as it existed under his predecessor, Chris Cerf.

The new communications director is Valerie Francois, formerly of Educational Testing Service (ETS), the Ranney School in Tinton Falls and the Siemens Foundation. She will be in charge of external communications and strategy, with the new title of Director of Media Relations and Strategic Outreach.

[related]The shift of academic programs assigns a range of new responsibilities to Chief Academic Officer Kimberley Harrington, particularly in the area of career-vocational programs. Hespe said in announcing the changes that these career-focused programs have increasingly become part of statewide standards efforts and should be under the same division.

As part of the moves, the Student Services and Career Readiness division will be renamed the Division of Learning Supports and Specialized Services.

Finally, the reorganization adds duties for Chief Innovations Officer Evo Popoff, who will also oversee the state’s intervention and takeover functions — a key role in light of the administration’s recent announcement that it was beginning the process of handing back local control of the Newark schools.

Tim Matheny, the state’s previous chief interventions officer, who held the post of teacher-evaluation director before that, has left the education department to take a position at a Philadelphia think-tank, officials said.