Dunleavy retains Michael Johnson as education commissioner

Alaska Education Commissioner Michael Johnson during a press conference in Anchorage on June 28, 2016. (Photo by Graelyn Brashear, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy announced Wednesday he will retain the state’s education commissioner. Michael Johnson will continue to serve as the head of the Department of Education and Early Development.

“I am honored to serve alongside Governor Dunleavy and look forward to working with the state board and Alaskans across the state to make sure every kid’s getting a great education,” Johnson said.

Unlike other members of the cabinet, the education commissioner is not directly appointed by the governor. Instead, the choice is made by the State Board of Education and Early Development. The governor confirms the board’s pick.

Of course, as Board Chair James Fields pointed out, the governor has other options.

“As far as I understand, if the governor wanted to un-appoint board members, he could literally start over and appoint all new board members. That would be at his discretion,” Fields said.

But Fields says he doesn’t see that happening. Johnson and Fields have discussed their goals for education in the state with the governor-elect, and both said the underlying mission of their work will remain the same.

“Are there going to be changes? I’m sure there will be. Like with any administration there’s going to be some adjustment. But I think we have the right leadership, and we have a good board that can deal with those adjustments and not lose sight of making sure we’re trying to do the best we can for every student in Alaska,” Fields said.

“I think that’s one of the wonderful things about education,” Johnson said. “That common focus stays the same through administrations.”

Gov.-elect Dunleavy himself is a former educator and administrator.