As Cardona Prepares For National Role, Incoming State Commissioner To Face Challenges

COVID-19 related issues are among the numerous obstacles the next commissioner of education will face, education officials say.

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It was a historic occasion Wednesday as President-elect Joe Biden announced Connecticut’s Miguel Cardona as his candidate for education secretary. Cardona humbly accepted the nomination.

“I’m proud to say I was born at the Yale Lakers housing projects. That’s where my parents Hector and Sarah Cardona instilled early on the importance of hard work, service to community and education,” said Cardona, with a slight emotional crack in his voice.

Hard work is not only something Cardona displayed while climbing Connecticut’s education ladder, it’s something the person filling Cardona’ position will need to be ready for.

“We’ve got critical months to get through that are going to be perhaps the most challenging not only in education but in every sphere in our state,” said Connecticut Education Association, Executive Director Don Williams.

COVID-19 and it’s affects on the education system have been profound and with that come challenges the next commissioner will face. According to the executive director of Connecticut’s Association of Public School Superintendents, there are many COVID-related issues intertwined with education, starting with the vaccine.

“How we work with the vaccine and advocate for educators to have that vaccine as soon as possible (are among the challenges),” explained Fran Rabinowitz.

Tied in with COVID’s impact on schools are issues with equity and funding around the state. Stakeholders say it will be work to close the gaps that have been created due to the pandemic.

“That is where we will absolutely need to roll up our sleeves and meet that challenge,” said Williams.

Looking further down the road, Rabinowitz says the next commissioner will also have to take into account the mental toll the pandemic has taken on students and be poised to meet those needs as well.

State officials say before a permanent replacement is named an interim candidate is being identified internally. As for a permanent replacement, state statue requires the governor’s office to work with state’s Board of Education to identify a candidate to fill the position.

“Whoever comes out of that process, it’s important that individual is in close alignment with the Governor’s vision for the state of Connecticut on education,” said Governor Lamont’s Chief of Staff Paul Mounds.

Stakeholders within the state’s education system say they hope the new commissioner, whomever it may be, shares the same values Cardona brought to the position.

Mounds says there will be more info in the coming days as it relates to an interim replacement. They are still awaiting word as to when Cardona’s final day as Commissioner will be.

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