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Oregon Update: Castillo Resigns as Superintendent

Last week I wrote about the appointment of former Miami and New York City schools boss Rudy Crew by Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber to be Oregon's "chief education officer," a position created through new laws passed in 2011 that also would eventually give Kitzhaber the job of Oregon superintendent. I also talked about where Crew's high-profile appointment left long-time state superintendent Susan Castillo, whose job was scheduled to disappear at the start of 2015 (at the latest) when her term expired, and who naturally enough opposed the end of her position.

Apparently Castillo was quick to provide the answer herself. She resigned from her position on Monday, The Oregonian reported, in order to take a job at Project Lead the Way, which provides science, technology, engineering and math curriculum to middle and high schools. Castillo will leave her job at the end of the month.

Despite her opposition to the new law dissolving the state superintendent position, Castillo did not wage a high-profile battle against other parts of Kitzhaber's education overhaul, which puts more pressure on school districts to improve academic outcomes for students and creates a new "education investment board" to streamline and unify education in the state. But, in political terms, Castillo appeared to be something of a lame duck, appropriately enough for Oregon since, under the laws Kitzhaber championed, Castillo won't even have a successor appointed or elected to finish out her term. Her job will cease to exist when she leaves, and education policy power in the state now passes to Kitzhaber and Crew.

Crew's national (and controversial) profile made the situation in Oregon interesting. But even though Castillo's departure appears relatively amicable, Kitzhaber's gubernatorial power play is not unusual. In March 2011, for example, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, used a new ally on the state school board to elbow aside superintendent Deborah Delisle. Her departure was politically charged and seemed unceremonious: Delisle wrote in her letter of resignation that two Kasich staffers told her that her tenure was "coming to an end" and that she needed to create an "exit strategy" before the new state board gave her the boot. (Delisle, by the way, now works as an assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education at the U.S. Department of Education.)

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