- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Gov. Bill Walker said Thursday that education commissioner Mike Hanley offered his resignation during a meeting in which it appeared clear that the state board of education wanted a change in leadership.

In an emailed response to questions from The Associated Press, Walker said that he and board chairman James Fields met with Hanley Wednesday. During that discussion, Walker said it appeared clear where the board was headed so Hanley offered his resignation.

Walker announced Thursday that Susan McCauley will take over as interim commissioner beginning March 1 while the board conducts a search for a new commissioner. McCauley is director of the department’s teaching and learning support division.

Hanley has served as commissioner for five years. He was first appointed by then-Gov. Sean Parnell. Messages seeking comment were left for Hanley Thursday.

Walker said that shortly after he was elected governor, he received a letter from the board of education asking that he retain Hanley. Over time, the board’s chair expressed a desire by the board to make a leadership change in the department, Walker said.

“Given the board’s concerns and Alaska’s national education standings, I thought it was appropriate to take another look at this matter,” he said. “As I respected the board’s desire to retain Commissioner Hanley when I first took office, I also respect their desire for change in the department going forward.”

Walker said it became evident in his discussions with the board chair that Hanley lacked the board’s support. Since the board oversees the education department, Walker said it’s critical for there to be a “meeting of the minds between the commissioner and the board.”

In an interview Thursday, Fields said the state education system is at a critical junction and has been for a few months. He said leadership that can provide “outside the box” thinking and vision is needed.

“Sometimes things change and you need to change up leadership to change the outlook and perspective,” he said.

Both Fields and Walker thanked Hanley for his work.

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