After a nationwide search was conducted, French and two other longtime Vermont education administrators were selected as the top candidates. The others are current Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca and Brent Kay, superintendent of Orange Southwest Supervisory Union in Randolph.
Act 98, passed by the Legislature this spring, calls for the transition from an education department to an Agency of Education, effective Jan. 1. The change gives the governor authority to appoint a secretary from three candidates proposed by the state Board of Education. The secretary will serve at the pleasure of the governor and be a member of his cabinet.
State board Chairman Stephan Morse appointed a four-person search committee in late summer to conduct a national search, which also included sought advice of several people in the Vermont education community.
Morse announced Wednesday the search committee will recommend French, Vilaseca and Kay to the state board at its Nov. 13 meeting.
With board approval, the names will then be forwarded on to Gov. Peter Shumlin.
"This will be an exciting and challenging time for the education community as it transitions from a department to a full state agency. I am confident the new secretary and the state Board of Education will continue to serve Vermont students well," Morse said in a release.
Under the new law, the secretary will manage the agency while the state board will continue to set educational policy and conduct the rule-making process.
French is in his sixth year as superintendent of BRSU, which serves students in Manchester, Dorset, Sunderland, Danby, Pawlet, Rupert and Mount Tabor. In 2009 he was named the top superintendent in the state by the Vermont Superintendents Association, an organization of more than 60 superintendents in the state.
French was president of the VSA last school year, and this year Kay is president.
-- Dawson Raspuzzi