Paige Announces Formation of Two New Offices
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige today announced the formation of two new offices within the Education Department — the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools and the Office of Innovation and Improvement.
All activities related to safe schools, crisis response, alcohol and drug prevention, health and well being of students, and building strong character and citizenship will be located in the safe and drug-free schools office. It will also take the leadership role in the department’s Homeland Security efforts.
The new innovation and improvement office is intended to be a nimble, entrepreneurial arm of the Education Department, making strategic investments in promising practices and widely disseminating their results. It will also lead the movement for greater parental options and information in education, and will free other offices to focus on their core missions.
Both offices will be directed by new deputy undersecretaries of education with the programs to form the units coming primarily from the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Office of Educational Research and Improvement.
Former Texas appeals court justice Eric G. Andell, currently senior advisor to Secretary Paige, will lead the safe and drug-free schools office. Heading the innovation and improvement office will be Nina Shokraii Rees, deputy assistant to the vice president for domestic policy. Before joining the White House, Rees served as an education advisor to the Bush campaign, a senior education analyst at the Heritage Foundation and director of outreach at the Institute for Justice.
Of the new safe and drug-free schools office, Secretary Paige said it will help bring together into a single unit programs that are currently scattered in several offices.
“Folding all programs that deal with safety, health and citizenship into one office will enable us to better respond to the critical needs of schools in these areas and also help us to develop a broad-based comprehensive strategy,” Paige said. “Ensuring that all schools are safe, free of alcohol and drugs, and teach students good citizenship and character is essential if we are to ensure that no child is left behind.”
Paige said that school shootings in recent years and the terrorist attacks of 9/11 sent a clear message that schools need to be better prepared to deal with an entirely new class of emerging threats. Schools must be ready to deal with everything from natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes, to shooting, accidents and terrorist attacks.
A primary goal of the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools will be to assist schools in developing plans to deal with the variety of threats they face and which if not addressed could impede teaching and learning.
Likewise, the Office of Innovation and Improvement will consolidate programs related to parental options and education, including those for charter schools, magnet schools, public school choice, non-public education and family educational rights.
It will also coordinate with the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education the public school choice and supplemental services provisions of the new No Child left Behind Act.
Under that landmark act, parents play a crucial role in school improvement. Greater parental options are supported by the law, including expanded public school choice, charter schools, supplemental educational services and services for children in private schools.
The Office of Innovation and Improvement will also house many of the department’s discretionary programs, such as transition to teaching and teaching American history.
“Like today’s best entrepreneurial foundations, this office will support promising programs and — working with the Office of Educational Research and Improvement — rigorously evaluate their results,” Paige said.
“This office will become the department’s expert in leveraging competitive grant programs for maximum learning and maximum impact and will aggressively disseminate findings about what works to the educational field,” he said.
Creation of the new offices will result in minimal costs to the department since the funds for the staff and other activities will transfer from their existing offices to the new ones.
Less than 200 of the Education Department’s 5,000 employees will be affected by the moves.