UPDATED: Holcombe reappointed as education secretary

Rebecca Holcombe

Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe speaks to lawmakers. File photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger

(This story was updated Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.)

Gov. Phil Scott has reappointed Rebecca Holcombe as secretary of education because of what he called her “fierce commitment” to improving education for Vermont’s children.

“As my administration works to rethink the system, building a cradle-to-career approach that fosters innovation and supports educational and economic goals, Rebecca will be a strong leader and champion for creating more value for our students throughout the entire spectrum,” Scott said in a statement Monday.

Holcombe said it would be a privilege to serve the Scott administration. She said she believes in his goals of making Vermont more affordable and expanding the economy while protecting the vulnerable. “We know strong, efficient, high-quality education are essential to that effort,” she said in a news release.

The governor’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year envisioned some significant changes in education finance. He sought to freeze state spending on K-12 education at 2017 levels while expanding the education fund to cover early childhood learning and higher education. Lawmakers declined to go along with his plans.

Holcombe was one of three people recommended to the governor by the State Board of Education. She was first appointed secretary by Gov. Peter Shumlin in 2014.

In the previous biennium, the Legislature undertook a number of large-scale education initiatives such as universal pre-kindergarten and Act 46, the school district consolidation law, that Holcombe has been responsible for implementing.

“We are in the middle of the implementation of universal pre-K and Act 46, and she knows the elements of these programs. She will be able to help the state move forward in both of these areas,” said Rep. David Sharpe, D-Bristol, chair of the House Education Committee.

Sen. Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden, who heads up the Senate education panel agreed with Sharpe and said he was “delighted” the governor reappointed Holcombe who is “one of the most intelligent and competent people” he has ever met. “The final phase of Act 46 will require all of that expertise and more, so personally I’m relieved to have the question settled.”

Holcombe has experience teaching middle school, high school and college students. She was also a principal at the Fairlee School and helped create the Rivendell Interstate School District.

She has degrees from Brown University and Simmons School of Management and a doctorate in education from Harvard. Holcombe also has a principal certification from Lyndon State College and did teacher prep at the Upper Valley Educators Institute.

State Board of Education Chair Stephan Morse commended the governor for his decision. “Rebecca is respected throughout the Vermont educational community, and Vermont students will benefit from her continued leadership,” Morse said.

Updated: This story was updated at 9:23 a.m. Feb. 14 with a quote from Sen. Philip Baruth.

Tiffany Danitz Pache

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