Delaware education secretary to step down

DOVER — Delaware Education Secretary Mark Murphy will soon step down, and a longtime school district superintendent has been named as his replacement.

Mr. Murphy announced Friday his plans to pursue other opportunities.

Gov. Jack Markell said he will nominate Dr. Steven Godowsky, former superintendent of the New Castle County Vo-Tech School District, to replace him.

Gov. Markell, a Democrat, will submit the nomination to state senate during a special session Oct. 28.

As soon as Mr. Murphy leaves in the fall, though, Dr. Godowsky will step in to serve as interim education secretary.

The last day for Mr. Murphy still hasn’t been set yet, but he and Gov. Markell agreed it was beneficial to announce the change before the start of the school year, the governor’s office said.

Dr. Godowsky led the New Castle County Vo-Tech District for eight years beginning in 2003.

That followed two decades working in the district as an assistant principal at Delcastle Tech, principal at Hodgson Vo-Tech, and assistant superintendent.

During his time as superintendent, he served a term as president of the Delaware Chief School Officers Association for the 2007-08 school year. He also spent time earlier in his career as a special education teacher in the Alfred I. DuPont School District.

Dr. Dan Shelton, the superintendent of Capital School District, said that he was “ecstatic” at the nomination.

“…through this administration, we have not had a local delaware superintendent move into the secretary (role). That was the tradition. That was why the state department was so strong,” he said.

“Having someone who really understands Delaware, really understands what we need and who will actually be respected by the educators is absolutely what we need to turn this state around.”

With so much shuffling around, he said, Dr. Godowsky’s biggest challenge will be to “find some continuity” and get the department headed in the right direction.

Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, the superintendent of Caesar Rodney School District, called Dr. Godowsky “a great communicator and a consensus builder.”

“Steve was always the voice of reason during any debate. I look forward to working with him and I am excited over the future direction of education in the state,” he said.

Dr. Fitzgerald said that he had always found Mr. Murphy “committed and passionate about improving education in the State of Delaware.”

“I believe that he cared about the children of the state and that his decisions were always based on ways to improve student achievement and helping them be both college and career ready,”

During his tenure, Mr. Murphy helped implement the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards, overseeing a number of education reforms, including Race to the Top, which won federal funds to improve Delaware schools.

But the department had also recently received criticism from lawmakers and interest groups.

In a conference call with reporters, Murphy said his resignation, which was not requested by Markell, has nothing to do with a no-confidence vote earlier this year by the representative assembly of the Delaware State Education Association, the state teachers union.

“Absolutely not,” he said.

The teachers union said at the time that there were several reasons for its no-confidence vote, including what it said were unilateral changes in the teacher evaluation system without input from educators and continued “labeling” of traditional public schools based solely on standardized test scores.

And in July, Gov. Markell vetoed a bill that would have allowed Delaware’s public school students to opt out of both standardized tests. The bill was aimed at the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which is tied to the Common Core standards that Delaware adopted in 2010.

“Mark has addressed every challenge with a remarkable determination to support the hard work happening in our schools and find solutions that best serve our youth,” Gov. Markell said in a statement.

“We have made tremendous strides in the past few years, while laying the groundwork for more progress in our never-ending mission to ensure every Delaware child receives the best possible education.”

He pointed to Mr. Murphy’s accomplishments during his three-year tenure, including boosting the graduate rate and increasing the number of college-ready students applying to college.

Officials said he led the state in improving educator preparation programs and helped srengthen the state’s charter school law to improve school accountability and support.

Mr. Murphy’s pending resignation follows the departures of several other Cabinet secretaries as Markell’s second term as governor winds down.

Gov. Markell said said he expects Dr. Godowsky to continue to build upon his administration’s school improvement efforts, noting that he has “strong relationships” within the education community.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

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