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Jeb Bush ally Yecke out as state K-12 chancellor
She's one of three top education leadersto leave since Gov. Charlie Crist took office.
Published December 20, 2007
TALLAHASSEE - Cheri Pierson Yecke is leaving as Florida's kindergarten-through-12th-grade chancellor after losing a bid for education commissioner, Florida's top public schools job, state officials announced Wednesday.
Yecke, who formerly led education departments in Virginia and Minnesota, is the third top education leader with close ties to former Gov. Jeb Bush to leave since his successor, Gov. Charlie Crist, took office in January.
Education commissioner Eric Smith, who was hired by the state Board of Education in October, named Frances Haithcock to replace Yecke starting Jan. 1. Haithcock formerly worked with Smith in his last position as head of the College Board, which administers the SAT entrance exam.
Yecke, one of three finalists for commissioner, approached Smith to say she was looking for another position in higher education and did not submit a formal letter of resignation, said Department of Education spokesman Tom Butler.
"She's negotiating with a few places," Butler said. "I'm not sure what her thinking was about it."
Yecke issued a statement, though, saying it's "been an honor and a privilege to have served the children of Florida."
Former Education Commissioner John Winn, who previously had been Bush's education policy coordinator, hired Yecke in 2005.
Her support of such ideas as school grading and vouchers, which let children attend private schools at public expense, were in line with Bush's policies but had created friction in Minnesota.
Winn resigned shortly after Crist took office. Board of Education member and former Chairman Phil Handy, another Bush loyalist, then withdrew his name for reappointment.
Yecke, a Republican who was briefly employed by a conservative think tank, dropped a campaign for Congress in Minnesota to take the Florida job in 2005.
Before that, she had served for 16 months as Minnesota's education commissioner until the Democratic-controlled state Senate fired her.
During her tenure there, academic standards were rewritten and a school grading system similar to the one Bush implemented in Florida in 1999 was launched.