For many of us who have battled for decades to place education at the forefront of the public agenda, these are especially unsettling times in our nation’s capital. However, in Colorado, recent new leadership appointments leave us filled with optimism and hope, mainly because five very capable and committed women have taken the helm at some of our most important education institutions.
These accomplished women have had vastly divergent experiences but also have much in common. They all have advanced degrees, have distinguished themselves in top public leadership roles, and are fearless in their commitment to provide a high quality educational experience to Colorado’s students, beginning in pre-school and continuing through college.
Lt. Governor Donna Lynne is one of these exceptional women. After more than two decades working alongside four New York City mayors, she arrived in Colorado to manage a critical healthcare institution during turbulent times. Now, as chair of Colorado’s Education Leadership Commission and co-chair of the Governor’s Early Childhood Learning Council, and in her dual roles as the state’s chief operating officer and as lieutenant governor, education is at the top of Lynne’s agenda. She provides clear leadership and focus to the many efforts of state agencies involved in education arenas.
Kim Hunter Reed is a more recent Colorado import. She cut her teeth in state government working for two Louisiana governors and has decades of experience in higher education at the national and state levels. She was a professor, held a number of senior university leadership roles, and joined the Obama administration leading the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and serving as deputy under secretary at the U.S. Department of Education. As director of higher education for the state, Reed will be responsible for promoting high quality postsecondary education, equity and affordability.
Janine Davidson’s career began in the military, first as a pilot and pilot instructor and later at the Defense Department. She held a number of senior level roles, including as undersecretary of the United States Navy. In July, Davidson will become president of Metropolitan State University of Denver, replacing the retiring Steve Jordan. She will move from being responsible for the health and well-being of nearly 900,000 sailors, marines, civilians and their families to overseeing the education of over 20,000 students enrolled at Denver’s flagship university. Taking on this important role in Denver’s higher education circles is a homecoming of sorts. Davidson spent her undergraduate years at the University of Colorado Boulder and did a stint as an instructor at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
Katy Anthes and Rebecca Holmes are not new to Colorado education circles. After serving in a number of key administrative roles for the Colorado department of education, including chief of staff and executive director of educator effectiveness, Katy Anthes was recently appointed commissioner of education. She will put her years of experience and knowledge to good use as she works with the state board of education to determine what strategies to employ with low performing schools, how to implement the new federal law, ESSA, and to update the state standards and assessment tools.
Rebecca Holmes takes on her new position as the president and chief executive officer of the Colorado Education Initiative after serving as associate commissioner at the colorado department of education. She previously was CEO of the KIPP Colorado charter school network and a senior program officer at the Gates Family Foundation. In her new role, Holmes’ goal is to spur new ideas and approaches by providing statewide education leaders with the support and networks to accelerate educational improvement through innovation.
In this time of uncertainty at the national level, it is reassuring to have such capable and committed women not just at the table, but at the head of the many tables guiding educational policy in Colorado. “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Elaine Gantz Berman
Former State Board of Education and Denver Pubic Schools board member
Author of Appealing For Justice and former Denver city councilwoman.