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Head of Nevada Department of Education announces resignation

Updated January 25, 2019 - 9:16 pm

The head of Nevada’s Department of Education announced his resignation Friday, shortly before the start of a legislative session slated to consider more than 80 education-related measures.

The looming departure of state Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Canavero paves the way for newly elected Gov. Steve Sisolak to appoint a new leader of the department to champion his education initiatives.

It also comes at a time when the department faces the departure of other deputy superintendents.

Canavero’s last day on the job will be Feb. 6. The Legislature convenes Feb. 4.

“I want to thank Dr. Canavero for his service to our state and Nevada’s students,” Sisolak said in a statement. “I am thankful for his years of leadership at the Department of Education and wish him the best in all future endeavors.”

Canavero has served in the role since 2015, when he was appointed interim superintendent by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. He became the permanent leader in 2016.

The father of two said he’s interested in a better work-life balance and is not resigning because of the new Democratic administration.

“I wanted to be very clear. It’s not about a disagreement with the governor,” Canavero said.

Current leaders in the department will help guide the agency through the legislative session, he said.

“I think it also, for the governor, clears the way for him,” he said. “He deserves to appoint his Cabinet and have a group of folks that he’s hand-selected, and I respect that deeply.”

Canavero said he’s received a number of job offers from throughout the country and will spend time in February following up on them. He said he’s not leaving education.

The announcement came as a disappointment to some members of the state board.

Board member Mark Newburn said Canavero was the point person for the state’s education funding formula. But he noted the timing is also awkward because the department has lost two deputy superintendents.

Roger Rahming, deputy superintendent for business and support services, also submitted his resignation Friday. Dena Durish, deputy superintendent of educator effectiveness and family engagement, submitted her resignation last year.

It’s the first transition between governors since the Legislature made the state superintendent a Cabinet position appointed by the governor, Newburn noted.

“I don’t know that the department will be able to play as strong a role defending the governor’s agenda during the session because of that,” Newburn said.

He said the board was expecting this but is not happy about it.

“We were hearing that the governor was not-so-quietly interviewing potential replacements,” he said. “And so this is not really a surprise.”

State Board of Education member Felicia Ortiz said Canavero was great to work with.

“He had his pulse on everything that was going on statewide, and the history of policy and progress — or lack thereof, in some cases — in Nevada,” she said. “But he also was so linked in nationally. That helped to give us perspective so that we weren’t just in our little Nevada bubble.”

The State Board of Education must select three candidates to recommend for appointment to the governor, according to state law.

It’s unclear whether Sisolak will appoint an interim superintendent. The governor’s office said that next steps will depend on the timeline over the next few weeks.

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter. Reporter Colton Lochhead contributed to this story.

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