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CT's Outgoing Education Leader Recognized For Work Ethic During Difficult Times

Connecticut Television Network

School leaders in Connecticut met for their annual back to school kickoff meeting Tuesday, one day after the state’s education commissioner announced he would not be seeking a second term.Stefan Pryor, Connecticut’s Education Commissioner since September 2011, announced he would not serve a second term should Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy be reelected in November. Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman spoke at the education department’s meeting.

“He came into this position at a time of challenge,” Wyman said. “A time of new opportunities. Every day he worked very, very hard to do what he thought was best to caring about our school systems and caring about our kids.”

Allan Taylor chairs Connecticut’s Board of Education. He says as a friend, he hopes Pryor can enjoy a more balanced life as he pursues other professional opportunities, recognizing the commissioner’s outstanding work ethic. But as an educational leader, the news hit him in a different way.

“I was very much saddened by it,” Taylor said. “I think our commissioner has done wonderful work and has left us positioned to keep that work going which is important to all of us and I know important to him.”

During his tenure, Pryor oversaw the state’s compliance with the national education revamp known as Common Core, which Taylor notes has not been uniformly welcomed, and has become a political flashpoint in the midterm elections.

“I know that there are many superintendents, and some of you may be here, who have basically said ‘We don’t need the Common Core. That’s for other districts; districts that are having trouble. We’re doing fine, thank you.’ Connecticut doesn’t send inspectors out. We don’t come in and say ‘Gee, are you Common Coring it?’ We’re not going to do that.”

As Executive Director of Connecticut’s Association of Boards of Education, Bob Rader also mentioned Pryor’s dedication, saying the commissioner’s work ethic borders on insane. Rader says Pryor wrestled with some of the toughest issues the state’s education system has seen in many years.

“The discussions on many of these issues were difficult,” Rader said. “The people in the room usually seemed to be sort of unruly and unrule-able. But, I think we did some great stuff and I thank you for that.”

“Thank you,” responded Pryor.

Pryor outlined the state’s achievement in the most recent set of scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Of those participating states, Connecticut’s high school seniors tested highest in reading and are among the top grouping in math. Pryor also mentioned schools are closing the black and white achievement gap.

“I think one could characterize that as a thunderclap of achievement thanks to all of your work,” Pryor said. “I want to congratulate you on the successes to date Connecticut, but let’s not settle for good enough when true excellence is possible. Superintendents, principles, teachers and students of this state you are on the right track.”

Governor Malloy’s office says there is no set timeline for Pryor’s departure. Despite controversy over Common Core and expanded teacher evaluations, Pryor says Connecticut schools are succeeding and challenged leaders to continue that progress.

“And if we stay at it, if we stick with it and if we keep working together with determinations the whispers will crescendo into roars of progress. Thank you,” closed Pryor which was met with a round of applause.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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