Governor looks to focus on graduation rates with new position

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown claps while introducing an education panel at the 13th annual Oregon Business Plan's leadership summit held at the Oregon Convention Center Monday, Dec. 14, 2015. (Photo: Steve Benham/KATU.com)

PORTLAND, Ore. Gov. Kate Brown signaled Monday she plans to focus on improving the graduation rate of Oregon high school students with the creation of an education innovation officer within her administration.

The announcement came before a packed crowd of the state's business leaders and legislators gathered for the annual Oregon Business Plan's leadership summit at the Oregon Convention Center.

"High school graduation has been traditionally portrayed as the finish line, but I say graduation isn't the finish line, it's a launch pad," Brown said during a morning speech focused on education, hours before she delivered the keynote speech at the summit.

She said the new position will focus on getting resources to help increase the state's dismal high-school graduation rate.

Brown's education policy so far hasn't departed significantly from her predecessor's, Gov. John Kitzhaber. Like Kitzhaber, she too envisions a seamless education system from what she calls "cradle to career."

Lawmakers during this year's legislation session dissolved Kitzhaber's 12-member Oregon Education Investment Board. But they left largely intact the agency of paid staff led by the chief education officer.

No one has been hired for the new position nor has the position been posted, Brown's spokeswoman Melissa Navas said.

It was unclear Monday how the new education innovation officer will fit into the larger education bureaucracy.

"(The governor's) office is still finalizing the position description," Navas said, adding that the governor plans to hire someone in early 2016 and more information will be made available in January.

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