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Career Tech: A Peculiar Choice

I don’t discuss Oklahoma Career Tech much. It’s not my background. I respect the work the centers do, and I think as far as their partnerships with public education go, they do a lot of good for high school students.

I was a little taken aback, though, to read about the new director for the statewide system. From the Tulsa World:

Bob Sommers of Middletown, Ohio, will begin work with CareerTech in April. Sommers is CEO of Carpe Diem Learning Systems, a learning services company.

Before going to work for Carpe Diem, Sommers served in several capacities with the Ohio Department of Education from 1986 to 2001. Before that, he was the superintendent of Butler Technology and Career Development Schools, a career-technical school district based in Hamilton, Ohio.

Sommers will succeed Phil Berkenbile, who will step down Thursday. Kay Martin, a former superintendent of the Francis Tuttle Technology Center, will be the interim director.

Carpe Diem, of course, has close ties to Jeb Bush, and the Foundation for Educational Excellence. I went to the state Career Tech website, and read a longer announcement, including this:

“We are extremely fortunate to have in Oklahoma’s CareerTech System someone of Bob Sommers’ vision and proven track record of improving student performance,” said Barresi. “He has 15 years experience in supervision and leadership in Ohio’s career-technical education and has collaborated with Ohio Gov. John Kasich on the creation and passage of major educational reforms for improved student performance and cost effectiveness. His vision for the future of the Career and Technology System in our state is forward thinking and exciting. I look forward to working with him.”

I also don’t know much about Carpe Diem. They operate charter schools with really large class sizes because the kids spend most of their time on computers. They don’t necessarily have good test scores (but make excuses for that.)

What I do know is that Sommers is used to running education as a business – a business in which he still has a financial stake. Will he divest from that? I don’t know, but it’s worth asking. Will his move to Oklahoma open the door for Carpe Diem to come here and “change the ecology” of education?

Time will tell. Meanwhile, we need to keep close watch.

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