Schwarzenegger to Appoint New Education Cabinet Secretary
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to name Glen Thomas, a veteran Sacramento educator, as his cabinet secretary for education, administration sources say.
Thomas, 62, who was executive director of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association for eight years, has held a variety of education posts over a 38-year career including stints helping to shape the state’s curriculum and improve arts education.
Affable and fit, Thomas is a change from his predecessors who were outsiders hobbled by a lack of familiarity with the Byzantine world of education politics in the Capitol.
David Long, a former Riverside educator, resigned from the post after 18 months on the job in September 2008.
The cabinet secretary advises the governor on education issues, from pre-school through the university level.
The governor has major influence over public schools through the state Board of Education, whose members he appoints and which sets education policy, and through the budget he proposes and, ultimately, the budget he signs.
California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O’Connell, administers the state’s education programs.
Thomas has long advocated improved coordination between the state board, the state superintendent and other state education-related entities like the Student Aid Commission.
A 20-year veteran of the state Department of Education, Thomas becomes cabinet secretary at a volatile time.
California’s economy has torn a $41 billion hole in the state’s budget. To help close that gap, the governor proposes reducing public school spending by $6.6 billion — $2.1 billion in cuts that will be felt in the classroom, the remainder designed not to be.
Education interest groups, among them the powerful California Teachers Association and the California School Employees Association, will fight the proposed reductions which, as Schwarzenegger’s education point man, Thomas will be called on to defend.
Unlike his predecessors, however, Thomas has long-standing relationships with those and other education groups.
During the early part of the Schwarzenegger administration, Thomas worked with the teachers association to help shape a settlement of the Williams case, a complicated and far-reaching lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties union to ensure poor children have qualified teachers, good textbooks and school facilities in good repair.
Thomas began his career teaching farm worker children in Stanislaus County then taught kindergarten through Grade 4 and learning handicapped students in the Modesto City Unified School District.
For a decade, he served as executive director of the state Curriculum Commission creating the curriculum frameworks used to train teachers, review textbooks and guide state instructional policy.
Each curriculum framework – history, math, science, for example — contains sections on how to most effectively teach the subject to different kinds of students: gifted, special education or English learners, among them.
After leaving the county school superintendents association in November 2006, Thomas became a consultant working with, among others, the state PTA and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation.
A avid bicyclist, he and his wife Connie, a teacher, have two grown daughters, Jori and Jody.
No Senate confirmation is required.
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