- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 9, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said Wednesday she is resigning next month to become an adviser to the chief education official in a major Middle Eastern city.

State Board of Education members praised DeBacker as an innovative leader who guided the board’s and the State Department of Education’s work on complex issues that included technical education, teacher licensing rules and multistate academic standards for reading, math and science. The board named DeBacker as acting commissioner in 2009 and promoted her to commissioner the following year.

DeBacker said she will step down May 14 to become an adviser to the director general of the Abu Dhabi Education Council in the United Arab Emirates. She was recruited, and she said she’ll have a yearlong contract that can be renewed annually. She expects the job to last from three to five years.

“I will just be giving advice, taking what we’ve learned here in Kansas and in the United States and seeing if we can apply that to their system,” she said.

The board named Deputy Commissioner Brad Neuenswander as acting commissioner while it conducts a search for DeBacker’s replacement. Neuenswander, 48, oversees the department’s Learning Services Division.

DeBacker, 53, began her career in education as a high school business instructor in Manhattan in 1982, worked at Washburn University of Topeka and later became a public school principal and administrator. She joined the State Department of Education in 2003 and after a stint as an associate superintendent of a Topeka-area school district, she became a deputy state education commissioner in 2008.

The board’s adoption of multistate academic guidelines for Kansas schools, particularly Common Core reading and math standards in 2010, led to a backlash from conservative Republican legislators. But board members of all philosophies hold DeBacker in high regard.

Ken Willard, a conservative Hutchinson Republican who’s served on the board since 2003, called DeBacker’s hiring as commissioner “the best move we ever made since I’ve been here.”

DeBacker said she’ll move to the United Arab Emirates a few weeks after she steps down. She said her family, including her husband and their 20-year-old son, will remain in Kansas, and she’ll travel regularly back to the state.



Information about Diane DeBacker: https://bit.ly/1g8klsq

Kansas State Department of Education: https://www.ksde.org/


Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .



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