When the AJC met two weeks ago with the Department of Education leadership team about Race to the Top, Erin Hames led the discussion, which was interesting as incoming school chief John Barge was not keeping her at the agency.
Hames had joined DOE earlier this year to help oversee RTTT after serving as Gov. Sonny Perdue’s policy director.
At the meeting, current school chief Brad Bryant, who is staying at DOE as legal counsel, said he hoped DOE could find a spot for Hames because of her critical role in crafting and winning Georgia’s $400 million RTTT grant.
For the record, I thought it was crazy to let Hames go as she is the state’s authority on RTTT, and it seemed counterproductive and costly to send all that background and knowledge out the door. She also knows all the players in Washington, which is important as this four-year grant will require ongoing contact with the U.S. DOE and Arne Duncan.
But Hames, a teacher-turned-attorney, has landed an even better spot. My AJC colleague James Salzer is reporting that Hames is becoming a deputy chief of staff for policy for Gov.-elect Nathan Deal. I would assume that she will be the governor’s eyes and ears on RTTT.
I like that Deal is surrounding himself with hardworking, young, bright people, including my former AJC colleague Brian Robinson, who was also named a top deputy. (By the way, as much as I admire Hames and Robinson for their smarts and their hard work this year, I’ve annoyed both of them with my reporting and expect that will continue.)
I still think that their boss has a vague and spotty plan for school reform. And again, while I respect Nathan Deal for being upfront about the deeper cuts coming to schools, Georgia will only fall further behind if we don’t recognize that education is not a luxury but a necessity if the state hopes to thrive in this new information era.
–By Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog