After dealing with complaints and feedback about new education standards and the accompanying standardized test replacing the FCAT, the Florida Department of Education faces a herculean task -- sorting through nearly 3,000 applicants for an 11-member committee to review standards, testing and other issues plaguing Floridas education system.
And it's getting late. The selection is supposed to be complete by March.
In December, Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart announced she would be accepting nominations for the Keep Florida Learning Committee, a group of 11 members (including Stewart) who would tackle the states most important education issues.
For more than a month, the state accepted applications from parents, teachers, superintendents, school board members, higher education representatives and state legislators.
On Jan. 31, submissions were closed.
Collier School Board member Erika Donalds applied for a position on the Keep Florida Learning Committee. Donalds is a businesswoman and a parent who has two children in public schools. Those two factors, Donalds says, would allow her to offer a unique perspective to the committee.
Donalds didnt have much room to make her case to the department -- she told Sunshine State News the committee application only asked three or four questions, making it difficult to set herself apart from other applicants.
There was just one box to say why you think you should serve on the committee, she explained. So it was really a simple form ... it was very strange to me.
Donalds reached out to local legislators and asked them to write letters of recommendation to Commissioner Stewart in hopes of boosting her chance at serving on the committee.
With 2,800 applications, you want to try to differentiate yourself somehow with that extra information that we really couldnt do on the application, she said.
But Donalds said it wasn't clear who would be calling the shots in terms of who makes or doesn't make the application cut.
It wasnt clear who was ultimately making the decisions, said Donalds.
Former teacher and current Collier County School Board member Kelly Lichter also applied for a spot on the committee. Shes also the founder ofMason Classical Academy, a Naples area charter school which opened in 2014.
Lichter told SSN she decided to send in her application after her local community encouraged her to do so.
Ive had experience in selecting curriculum ... really all aspects of education from the ground up, she said.
Some potential applicants didnt even bother to throw their names in the hat to be on the committee, saying they thought applying would be a waste of time.
I kind of felt it would be less than fruitful, said Dr. Karen Effrem, who heads Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, an organization which has been critical of the implementation of Common Core and standardized testing in Florida.
The department hasnt said what its exactly looking for in committee members, however. When SSN asked what the department was searching for in terms of qualities or qualifications, Communications Director Meghan Collins said there would be more information in the coming weeks.
I hope they have a cross-section of different people. Oftentimes you hear We can only have experts [on a committee] ... I hope they have a variety of talent, said Lichter.
Committee members will be announced later this month and the first meeting will be held via conference call in March.
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