Gov. John E. Baldacci announced April 14 that at the end of the month, Susan A. Gendron will leave the position of commissioner of the Maine Department of Education.

Deputy Commissioner Angela Faherty will be named acting commissioner following Gendron’s departure.

“Sue has helped to build a culture in Maine that all students need to graduate ready for college, career and citizenship,” said Baldacci in a press release. “She does not accept that any of us have the right as educators, parents or politicians to decide some kids will never succeed or to lower our expectations for students. She has been a tremendous asset to the state, and I’m proud of the work she has done as commissioner.”

Gendron will become policy director for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a group of more than 35 states working to develop common assessments and to compete for a share of $350 million in federal Race to the Top education reform funds.

Gendron was sworn in as commissioner in March 2003. During her tenure, Maine has joined with three other states to administer the New England Common Assessment Program, a common assessment for reading and mathematics.

Gendron expanded Maine’s laptop program, which has provided notebook computers to all Maine middle-school students since 2002 — making Maine the first and only state with a statewide 1:1 computing program, making laptops a possibility for every student in grades 7-12. The high school expansion, announced in June 2009, marks the world’s largest educational technology program of its kind.

In 2005, Gendron worked with the governor and Legislature to pass a new Essential Programs and Services formula, a model for funding education based on adequate and equitable resources for all students, to replace the former model that was based on prior-year spending.

The number of high school students who have taken college courses has increased significantly; she helped craft legislation that requires high schools to offer multiple pathways for students to graduate and strengthened career and technical education.

Gendron also worked to oversee the successful implementation of school administrative reorganization, the most sweeping education restructuring in Maine since the Sinclair Act of 1947.

She introduced the ReInventing Schools Coalition model of standards-based education to Maine. This method, which allows students to progress at their own speed and move forward to new material after mastering previous material, is being piloted in two Maine school districts, with six to eight more considering adoption.

Gendron oversaw a major expansion of early childhood programming, with 35 to 40 new programs in schools around the state, and worked with the First Lady to secure funding and implementation of the first Educare site in Maine, the first in New England, scheduled to open in Waterville this fall.

The comprehensive early childhood program is designed to serve between 150 and 200 mostly low-income children from before they are born to age 5, during the most critical brain development stage. The goal is to measurably increase their school-readiness and significantly reduce unnecessary special education costs.

Gendron has been a member of the Council of Chief State School Officers board since 2006 and is currently president of the national organization, where she has been at the forefront of national efforts to develop common standards and common assessments.

Gendron received the Maine School Superintendents’ Distinguished Educator Award in 2001; the Maine Superintendent of the Year Award in 2002; the Maine Education Association – Friend of Education Award in 2005; the University of Southern Maine Distinguished Alumni Award in 2006; and the State Education Technology Directors Association – Pushing the Envelope Award in 2008.

Baldacci praised Gendron for her work advancing standards-based education and innovative high school reforms. He said Maine would benefit from Gendron’s continued high profile on the national education stage.

“Maine is a recognized world leader in technology and in the forefront of standards-based education,” Baldacci said. “Sue’s involvement at the national level, bringing her experiences from Maine, will influence and guide national policy. Sue’s involvement gives Maine a seat at the table.”

Baldacci said Faherty’s appointment as acting commissioner following Gendron’s departure will assure a seamless transition.

“Deputy Commissioner Faherty is committed to continuing the shared vision for improving student achievement across the state,” said Baldacci.

“She has a bold vision for excellence and equity, and has achieved results through effective management and collaboration. She has demonstrated expertise in supervision, evaluation, consultation, teaching, facilitation and development of quality professional development for educators and leaders. She is a true believer in establishing clear goals with a clear purpose, and building consensus.”

Faherty earned her bachelor’s degree from the City College of New York, her master’s in education from the City University of New York and a doctorate in education from the University of Missouri.

She has been a classroom teacher at the elementary, middle and high school levels in literacy development, special education, and gifted and talented in the New York City, Missouri and Salt Lake City school systems. Faherty was assistant professor at the University of Northern Iowa and adjunct professor at the University of Southern Maine, St. Joseph’s College and Walden University.