Gov. Mike Dunleavy has named Susan McKenzie to be Alaska’s new education commissioner, following her selection by the state Board of Education and Early Development.
The department’s previous commissioner, Michael Johnson, resigned in June.
McKenzie, an educator and a current director within the Department of Education and Early Development, will assume the role April 1, according to a statement from the governor’s office. The current acting commissioner of the department, Heidi Teshner, will go back to her role as deputy commissioner.
“Ms. McKenzie has demonstrated a strong commitment to improving education and a vision for Alaska’s education system that aligns with the State Board’s strategic priorities and direction,” Dunleavy said in a written statement.
McKenzie is the department’s current director of Innovation and Education Excellence. She has also worked as a superintendent at an Oregon school district, and as a principal in Alaska’s Copper River School District.
“I am a change agent for ineffective systems and practices,” McKenzie said in the statement from the governor’s office. “As a servant leader, I lead by example and will be involved with all groups, making changes needed to provide an excellent education for every student every day.”
James Fields, who chairs the board, said that after hiring a consulting firm to assist with a nationwide search, the board narrowed candidates down from seven to four. They deliberated, and then took names to the governor.
McKenzie will not need to be confirmed by the Legislature, given her selection by the state board.
McKenzie takes on the role at a moment when education issues are coming to a head in the Legislature. State lawmakers are debating whether and how to increase funding for students after largely flat funding amid record inflation has left school districts statewide with major budgetary issues.