“An enthusiastic yes.”
“A resounding yes.”
This morning, members of the Connecticut State Board of Education voted unanimously to recommend Charlene Russell-Tucker as Connecticut’s new education commissioner, making her the first Black appointee to serve in that position on a permanent basis. Russell-Tucker, who was officially sworn in today, has been the State Department of Education’s acting commissioner since March 2021, when Dr. Miguel Cardona accepted a position as U.S. secretary of education.
Russell-Tucker pledged to lead the SDE by “joining forces with school leaders and educators to build a nation-leading educational system that is resilient.” Her goals include ensuring safe and healthy schools, expanding social emotional learning, achieving equity and diversity, and prioritizing the well-being of students and educators alike, which she called critical to the state’s success.
“I see our union members, CEA, and I’m so honored and humbled to see you here,” she said at her swearing-in. “What would education be like if all partners came together and embraced our educators and students?”
CEA President Kate Dias, who came out to congratulate Russell-Tucker at the ceremony, said, “During her time as interim commissioner, we have found Charlene to be passionate, understanding, and welcoming of input from all education stakeholders. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with her as she takes the helm of the State Department of Education and tackles the unprecedented challenges facing public education. She is particularly concerned about students’ social emotional learning and well-being, especially in light of the trauma caused by the pandemic and other outside influences that weave their way into our children’s lives and classrooms. She respects educators as the professionals they are, seeking teachers’ voices in efforts to improve public schools, and she is a champion of a racially and socially just and equitable education system that ensures all students have the opportunity to succeed, regardless of where they live.”
Governor Ned Lamont commended Russell-Tucker for her work as acting commissioner and expressed great confidence in her continued leadership at the SDE.
“She hit the ground running and didn’t miss a beat,” the governor said, adding, “I’m so proud. She has a close relationship with teachers, which I respect and honor, and she cares about students.” Read his full statement here.
Russell-Tucker has held several prominent positions within the SDE, including deputy commissioner, chief operating officer and division chief for the Office of Student Supports and Organizational Effectiveness, associate commissioner, and bureau chief. Her focus on family and community engagement in education, school attendance initiatives, and educational equity and diversity are welcomed by CEA members, who know firsthand the impact and value these efforts bring to public education.
To that end, immediately after the swearing-in ceremony, Russell-Tucker joined Governor Ned Lamont in introducing a new bill that will help Connecticut recruit, retain, and support teachers of color. The governor signed the bill into law, announcing that Connecticut’s public school system was just ranked second best in the country. “Why? Because we have the best teachers, and we have to make sure we keep them.”
The new minority teacher recruitment legislation, which was strongly championed by CEA, will provide funding, implicit bias training, and other supports and resources to ensure that more teachers of color are hired, retained, and supported and that teachers in Alliance districts in particular receive additional supports and incentives.
Calling the law’s bipartisan passage a result of “best-in-class collaboration,” Russell-Tucker said it will put in front of students “educators with whom they can identify.”
She added, “We have much to celebrate, but we don’t stop there. There is a lot of work to do.”