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Alaska One of Few States to Hire Rural Ed. Coordinator

Only two states—Alaska and Idaho—have officials whose sole responsibility is rural education, and one of those states hired a new person for the job last week.

Christopher Simon, of Huslia ALASKA? was named Rural Education Coordinator for the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development, effective Aug. 16. The former superintendent and principal will be responsible for improving the department's outreach to rural communities and Native organizations, promoting the governor's education priorities, building a rapport with lawmakers, and helping to improve education in rural parts of the state.

John White, the U.S. Department of Education's deputy assistant secretary for rural outreach, oversees day-to-day communication and outreach to rural communities across the country. He told the Rural Ed blog that Alaska and Idaho were the only states with rural education coordinators, or officials who were dedicated to rural education issues. (In Idaho, that person is Tina Naillon).

Many other states, he said, have staff who spend some of their time on rural education, and he cited Tennessee and Colorado as examples. In Colorado, the state appointed last year Jhon Penn to oversee improvements to its services to rural districts, but Penn kept his title, director of performance support.

Nearly every state, however, has staff who support rural schools through the federal Rural Education Achievement Program, White said. The program's initiatives are designed "to help rural districts that may lack the personnel and resources to compete effectively for federal competitive grants," according to its Web site.

If you're interested in who that person is in your state, federal officials have a list online.

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