Las Vegas Sun

January 18, 2018

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State education superintendent semifinalist field includes three Nevadans

Gov. Brian Sandoval on Monday announced the names of four semifinalists for state superintendent.

Three of the names are familiar in Nevada. One candidate is from outside the state.

The Nevada State Board of Education is looking to replace Jim Guthrie, who abruptly announced his resignation as superintendent in late March without giving any reason. Sandoval is expected to announce a new state superintendent by the end of the summer.

The four semifinalists are:

Rene Cantu Jr. is the executive director of the Latin Chamber of Commerce's Community Foundation, which writes grants and raises scholarship money for Hispanic students in Clark County. Last year, Cantu served for five months as a Clark County School Board member, filling in for a vacated seat. Cantu also was one of three finalists for the state superintendent last year. He has a doctorate in education administration from the University of Texas at Austin.

Dale Erquiaga is Sandoval's former chief policy director and speechwriter. Before serving in the Sandoval administration, Erquiaga was the director of government affairs for the Clark County School District. Erquiaga is currently the interim executive director for the Arizona Humane Society. He has a bachelor's degree in political science from UNR and a master's degree in leadership from Grand Canyon University,

Rorie Fitzpatrick is Nevada's interim superintendent of public instruction. Fitzpatrick was formerly the deputy state superintendent of instruction. She has been a licensed schoolteacher in Nevada since 1998 but has never been a full-time teacher. Fitzpatrick has a bachelor's degree in agricultural studies and a master's degree in early childhood and special education from UNR.

Michael Sentance is an "education reform consultant" in Boston, according to his online LinkedIn profile. Sentance was formerly a longtime secretary of education in Massachusetts and served as a regional representative for the U.S. Education Department. A former assistant attorney general in Massachusetts, Sentance has law degrees from Duquesne University and Boston University and a bachelor's degree in American studies from Georgetown University.

The next state superintendent would take the helm of a troubled education system that has suffered from a lack of consistent leadership at both the state and district levels.

In addition to Guthrie, the superintendents of Nevada's two largest school districts – Clark and Washoe counties – also have departed since 2012.

Nevada's superintendent of public instruction serves at the pleasure of the governor and executes K-12 education policies set by the governor and the state school board. The state superintendent, who will be paid a base salary of about $125,000, would oversee Nevada's 17 school districts, which educate nearly half a million students.

The state board of education will interview the four candidates at its July 25 meeting in Las Vegas and submit the names of three candidates to Sandoval, who ultimately will make the final decision. The candidate interviews, at the Las Vegas office of the Nevada Department of Education, 9890 S. Maryland Parkway, are open to the public.

Sandoval is expected to announce Guthrie's replacement in August.

To be qualified for the position of state superintendent, candidates must be 21 years old and "possess the knowledge and ability to carry out the duties required by all Nevada statutes and regulations governing K-12 public education."

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