- Associated Press - Friday, August 14, 2015

DOVER, Del. (AP) - Delaware’s education secretary, who has been the target of criticism by the state teachers union and lawmakers unhappy with his school reform efforts, is stepping down, Gov. Jack Markell said Friday.

Education Secretary Mark Murphy’s resignation will take effect later this year. The state Senate will convene a special session Oct. 28 to consider Markell’s nomination of Steven Godowsky, a veteran administrator and former superintendent of the New Castle County Vocational Technical School District, as Murphy’s replacement.

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.

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

“You get to a point in time where this begins to happen,” said Markell, pointing to the resignations of his transportation and economic development secretaries earlier this year and last year’s departure of his environment secretary.

Markell and Murphy said that with the upcoming start of a new school year, this was an appropriate time to announce Murphy’s resignation.

Markell praised Murphy for his efforts to strengthen Delaware’s public education system, pointing to record-high graduation rates, higher college enrollment, and expanded career training programs for high school seniors. He also noted that Murphy has overseen implementation of higher academic standards, including Common Core standards that have been the subject of attacks by lawmakers and teachers.

“There’s a lot of progress to point to … a lot of tremendous progress,” Markell said.

Last month, Markell vetoed a bill that would have allowed Delaware’s public school students to opt out of both standardized statewide and district tests without repercussions. The bill was specifically aimed at the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which is tied to Common Core standards that have been championed by Markell and are being adopted in Delaware and other states.

Murphy said he is exploring “a number of opportunities” but refused to say whether they include another position within the state Department of Education.

“I’ll keep you guys updated in the weeks ahead,” he said.

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

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