Education commissioner retained by Dunleavy - Must Read Alaska
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Sunday, February 16, 2020
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Education commissioner retained by Dunleavy


Incoming Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced today he will retain Education Commissioner Michael Johnson.

In a statement, the incoming administration said:

“The State of Alaska’s constitution is unique in that the education commissioner’s authority is based in state statute, which establishes the commissioner as the principal executive officer of the Department of Education and Early Development. (AS Title 44, Chapter 27, Section 10).

“A governor may advocate for a new commissioner, or demand it by replacing the Board. Governor-elect Dunleavy plans instead to work with the existing commissioner to address Alaska’s education challenges.”

“I met with Commissioner Johnson to hear his assessment of where we are, and where we need to go,” said Dunleavy. “We had a healthy discussion about needed improvements, and shifting our focus to getting better results for students. In the end, our priorities aligned and we decided we could work together on changing how we deliver education in this state.”

Dunleavy spent 30 years in education as a former teacher, principal, and school administrator. In addition, Dunleavy was a Mat-Su school board member; education consultant; head of Mat-Su’s public homeschool program; and was a program manager for the University of Alaska’s statewide mentor project. 

Throughout the campaign, Dunleavy pledged to change the state’s education system, which currently ranks dead last among the 50 states in certain achievement categories.

Dr. Johnson was appointed commissioner by the Board of Education in June of 2016.

Before that, he served in the Copper River School District as superintendent, school principal, district curriculum and staff development director, elementary teacher, and special education program assistant.

While he was principal of Glennallen Elementary School, the school was named a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. Johnson also is a recipient of the prestigious Milken Educator Award.

He holds a bachelor of arts degree and a master of arts in teaching degree in elementary education from Columbia International University, and a doctorate of philosophy in education and intercultural studies from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Good choice; this isn’t the mountain to die on.

    Alaska’s first Education Governor must demand accountability and structural change—from 54 needy districts to 12-14 academically focused regional beacons of sustainable excellence.

    That should be the goal.

  • Well, nice to see what is to be, like minded management. The question to ask is: What and where has the commissioner been the last two years that now with a new governor, change will be made to “Improve Education” of a state dead last. Should this effort been underway upon the initial appointment? This from a resident of a district that reflects 50% of 1st through 3d grade students struggling or failing in reading and not much better in match.
    Taught by educators receiving stratospheric salary to produce such results.


  • Great choice

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