The director of the Iowa Department of Education says he’ll take early retirement and end his nine-year tenure as the state’s top educator. Ted Stilwill was appointed to lead the department by then Governor Terry Branstad in 1995 and says he’ll retire August 12th.He says it’s “been a labor of love, it’s been the most satisfying job I’ve ever had. It’s been the most rewarding in terms of what I’ve been able to learn, and in man cases it’s been the most frustrating.”Stilwill faced his toughest confirmation hearing this past spring when some legislators questioned the direction of the department and student test scores. He says that wasn’t part of the frustration.He says that was hardly a distraction and was a normal part of doing business. He says “If I had not irritated someone in doing this work, I would not have done it well.” Stilwill says he feels good about the department he’s leaving.He says part of the comfort he says he has with his decision is knowing there’s a great momentum in the education community for doing the things that need to be done. He says teachers and educators are committed to the system in a degree that’s rare in the U.S.Governor Tom Vilsack joined Stilwill for today’s announcement. He says, “There’s been no more dedicated individual to the children of this state, and to the teachers in this state, and to the administrators.” Vilsack says Stilwill has gained a national reputation and credits Stilwill with the plan to improve reading scores by lowering class sizes in the elementary grades. Vilsack speculated that the budget battles with the legislature are part of the reason Stilwill decided to retire. He says the battles they’ve gone through in “begging” for resources for education probably wore on Stilwill. The Governor has named early childhood, elementary and secondary education administrator Judy Jeffreys to replace Stilwill until a nation search is conducted to find his successor.
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