It appears the nation’s next education secretary will be from Connecticut. Miguel Cardona, the state’s commissioner of education for the past two years, is expected to be named to the position by President-elect Joe Biden.
Cardona was raised in Meriden, both as a student and educator. So, with news starting to circulate that he could lead the nation's education system, there is a genuine sense of excitement.
“Amazing! Unbelievable! I was jumping for joy,” said Meriden Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark Benigni.
Benigni said Cardona’s own personal journey in town is what makes it worth celebrating.
“He grew up here, in the projects. Worked his way through school, public education and now look at him. He’s going to lead education for the nation,” said Benigni.
Cardona touched every rung on Meriden’s education ladder. He graduated from Wilcox Technical High School. Later, he became principal at Hanover Elementary School. Then, he was promoted within Meriden’s system first from to assistant superintendent before being named the state’s Commissioner of Education by Governor Ned Lamont in 2019.
“It’s a loss for Connecticut but it’s a big win for kids and teachers and educators around the country,” said Lamont.
Those who’ve worked with Cardona said he will make an impact.
“He’ll never give up on a kid. He just won’t do it and won’t tolerate that from others,” said Benigni.
Here in Connecticut, educators say Cardona was instrumental in creating an environment allowing in-person learning during the pandemic. He also partnered with his alma mater, Central Connecticut State University, to expand EdRising, working to diversify the state’s teacher pool.
Now, he brings that experience to the national forefront.
“I think it’s amazing and very proud,” said CCSU Dean of the School of Education & Professional Studies, Dr. Kimberly Kostelis.
Cardona would also help President-elect Biden fulfill his promise to have a diverse cabinet.
“It is a tremendous profound message for every Latino across the country,” said Miguel Castro, chairman of the Connecticut Hispanic Democratic Caucus.
Dr. Evelyn Robles oversees all bilingual and English as second language programs in Meriden. She explains that Cardona was a former English learner himself and expects him to bring his experience and strategies to the position.
“Addressing the needs of all learners will be the highest priority but taking a closer look at English learners in general [will also be a priority],” said Robles.
For these reasons and more, Meriden’s education leaders are celebrating.
“Miguel is the perfect example that public education works,” said Benigni. “It works!”