By STEVE BOUSQUET, Times Staff Writer
Published August 30, 2005
TALLAHASSEE - A Minnesota educator who modeled changes to her state's education system after Gov. Jeb Bush's A-plus plan will be Florida's new chancellor for grades K-12.
Cheri Pierson Yecke was appointed Monday by Education Commissioner John Winn. Yecke, 50, will start work in October as the replacement for James Warford, who resigned in July.
"It was absolutely an honor to be asked by Jeb Bush to be part of his team," Yecke said Monday by phone from her home in Minnesota. "What you are doing in Florida is really leading the nation."
Yecke led a statewide effort in Minnesota to grade schools there with from one to five stars, similar to Bush's plan that issues letter grades to Florida schools.
Yecke said Bush interviewed her for the post two weeks ago in Tallahassee while she was making a presentation on middle school reform to Florida educators. She said she shares the governor's goal of closing the achievement gap and demanding more accountability for student performance.
After working as Virginia's education secretary, as director of teacher quality and public school choice programs at the U.S. Department of Education, and as a White House education adviser, Yecke returned to her native Minnesota in 2003 as education commissioner under Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
After 16 months in office, Yecke lost her job when a state Senate committee controlled by Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party members refused to confirm her.
Yecke said she was caught in the crossfire of a battle between Democratic senators and Pawlenty, who refused to raise taxes.
Yecke lately has been a Republican candidate for Congress, raising about $85,000 this year in Minnesota's 6th District, and has been a distinguished senior fellow at the Center of the American Experiment, a Minnesota think tank.
In 2003, Yecke wrote a book, The War Against Excellence: The Rising Tide of Mediocrity in America's Middle Schools .
A former history teacher, Yecke has a master's of science in teaching from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Virginia. She and her husband have two grown daughters, both of whom live in Florida.