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R.I. Education Commissioner Diagnosed with Brain Tumor

From guest blogger Kimberly Shannon


Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has been diagnosed with a brain tumor and will undergo surgery in September, according to the Associated Press. She is expected to have a full recovery, but will be working a limited schedule until her operation. After her surgery, her recovery is expected to take about two months, during which time Deputy Commissioner David V. Abbott will be serving in her place.

The 45-year-old got a concussion while traveling in July, which is what revealed the tumor. The tumor is believed to be meningioma. This type of tumor is benign and not life-threatening, according to a report by Providence's ABC-6. Doctors chose to remove the tumor because of its location.

Gist has been a well-regarded member of the education system for many years. In 2010, she was chosen as a "Thinker" on the Time 100, Time's annual list of people who have the greatest effect on the world. The magazine chose her for her bold moves to make teacher staffing based on qualifications, not seniority; her initiation of an annual teacher evaluation system; and her action to raise Rhode Island's bar for teacher entrance exams from one of the lowest in the nation to the highest.

She is also well-known for backing the controversial decision to fire the entire staff of a low-performing Rhode Island high school—an action that was praised by President Barack Obama. Some credit her as the first superintendent to fully implement Obama's plan to turn around underachieving schools.

Previously, Gist served as state superintendent of education in the District of Columbia for two years and was a senior policy analyst at the U.S. Department of Education.

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