Ed Commissioner Hespe Resigns as New Jersey School Year Begins

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

As schools across the nation welcome new faces at the beginning of the school term, so too will the Christie administration following the resignation of New Jersey’s education commissioner David Hespe.

According to a statement issued by the office of Governor Chris Christie, assistant commissioner and chief academic officer Kimberley Harrington will step into the role of acting education commissioner and is expected to continue reforms within the education system, which have been in progress over the last few years.

According to Claude Brodesser-Akner from NJ.com, Harrington will be the fifth education commissioner in seven years.

The change in leadership follows a controversial 2 years for the states education sector, with Hespe having undertaken reforms that were highly contested by parents and professionals.

Parents raised significant concerns regarding standardized tests for math and English called Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). These test changes were implemented by Hespe, and many parents protested against them by keeping their children from sitting the tests.

The change to testing was also questioned by teachers and administrators who raised concerns regarding the intention of the tests in evaluating teacher performance, reports Melanie Burney from The Inquirer.

It was argued that schools were not provided efficient resources to prepare the students for the test and that it took quality instructional time away from the class schedule.

Ben Fogletto reports in the Press of Atlantic City that the states largest teachers union also clashed with the Christie administration over the tests.

However controversial the changes to the education sector in New Jersey were during Hespe’s time as education commissioner, many speak highly of him, including Lawrence Feinsod, the executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association. As reported by Hannan Adley of NorthJersey.com, Feinsod said that Hespe was respected by colleagues because of his:

“… genuine interest and concern for our state’s public schools. Dave Hespe’s concern for the welfare of New Jersey’s schoolchildren is outstanding and sincere. As our state’s chief education officer, he has been extremely accessible, has always given time to listen to the concerns of local boards of education, and has worked collaboratively on many issues.”

In a statement, Hespe said it was:

“… the right time” to leave and that he “will begin exploring new career opportunities in teaching and learning. I will leave with a sense of pride at all that we have accomplished together over the past few years. Together we have improved learning for school children throughout the state of New Jersey.”

Hespe leaves amidst Gov. Christie’s ‘Fairness Formula’ plans that aim to reform education funding within the state.

Of Hespe, Gov. Christie said that:

“… students are more college and career ready and in better position to succeed thanks to the tireless efforts of Education Commissioner David Hespe.”

A qualified lawyer, Hespe will now use his time to explore other opportunities in the education sector including in teaching and learning, reports Melanie Burney. Hespe has previously served the state government, as well as K-through-12 and higher education.

Harrington will step into the role of acting education commissioner with 20 years of experience working in the education sector.