The Alaska Board of Education and Early Development has selected former Anchorage School District superintendent Deena Bishop to be the state’s new education commissioner.
The board voted unanimously Wednesday evening in favor of Bishop’s appointment. Her term will begin Aug. 9, pending Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s approval.
The department has been operating under an acting commissioner since last June, when the previous commissioner, Michael Johnson, resigned.
Bishop served as ASD superintendent from 2016 to 2022, and toward the end of her tenure, her role was heavily shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. Before working as Anchorage’s schools superintendent, she was superintendent of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District starting in 2011.
Since last year, Bishop has worked as an education adviser to Dunleavy.
In April, she testified in favor of the governor’s controversial “parental rights” bill, House Bill 105, which would have limited instruction on gender and sexuality in public schools, required parental permission for students to change their pronouns, and would have banned gender nonconforming students from using bathrooms according to their gender identity, among other things. That bill did not pass this legislative session.
In March, Dunleavy chose Susan McKenzie for the position, but she declined the job a few weeks later, citing personal reasons. Former deputy commissioner Heidi Teshner has been acting commissioner since Johnson’s resignation over a year ago.
Unlike other department heads who are chosen directly by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature, the education commissioner is chosen by the state board of education. It is then up to the governor to ratify the decision.
Jeff Turner, a spokesperson with the governor’s office, said Bishop was not available for an interview Thursday.
James Fields, who chairs the state board of education, said in a written statement Thursday that the board was “excited” to bring Bishop on.
“She has a strong passion and dedication to improving outcomes for all students,” he wrote in the statement.