(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – Gov. Brian Sandoval today named James Guthrie, currently the senior fellow and director of education policy studies at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, Texas, as Nevada’s new public schools chief.
Guthrie, who will be based in Las Vegas, will begin his job as state superintendent of public instruction on April. 2. He succeeds current Superintendent Keith Rheault, who is retiring.
Sandoval selected Guthrie from three names forwarded to him by the state Board of Education. The board interviewed five candidates last month. Guthrie received unanimous support from the board.
Sandoval’s appointment of Guthrie is a first for a Nevada governor. The state board had made the superintendent appointments until the law was changed by the 2011 Legislature as part of an education reform package sought by Sandoval.
“After the passage of education reform in the last legislative session, for Nevada to have access to a figure with a national reputation is the perfect next step,” Sandoval said. “I am honored and thrilled Dr. Guthrie has agreed to help lead Nevada as we continue strengthening education in our great state.”
In a phone interview today, Guthrie said he decided to seek the position in part because of a belief that Nevada is on the brink of significant success in the public education arena.
“There are many hopeful signs in the state, not least of which is . . . we have two of the nation’s best superintendents and we may have more than that,” he said. “I just only know Heath Morrison in Washoe and Dwight Jones in Clark, I don’t know the other 15. But in those two, virtually any big district in the nation would be delighted to have either one of them and we have both.”
Morrison was recently named superintendent of the year.
The 2011 legislative session also made a number of positive moves in education reform that Guthrie said he is impressed with. Guthrie said he is also impressed with Sandoval and is looking forward to working with him on education reform efforts.
Guthrie said his first task will be to familiarize himself with Nevada and its public education system, although he has worked in the past for the Nevada Legislature and has made extensive visits to the state.
Guthrie said he also has experience in the political realm, which will be important as he works with the governor and state lawmakers in the 2013 legislative session.
“I’ve worked for a number of legislatures, I’ve worked in the White House, I’ve testified before Congress,” he said. “I can’t say that I know all that I need to know but I have done it before.”
Prior to his position with the George W. Bush Presidential Center, Guthrie served as a professor of education policy and leadership at the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education at Southern Methodist University.
Guthrie has a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in physical anthropology, a master’s degree from Stanford in educational administration and earned his Ph.D. in educational administration from Stanford.
Guthrie has completed two postdoctoral fellowships, one at Harvard University in economics and education and one at Oxford Brooks College in Oxford, UK.
From 1999 to 2009, Guthrie served as the director of the Peabody Center for Education Policy at Vanderbilt University and as editor of the Peabody Journal of Education as well as the Peabody Education Leadership Series. From 1982 to 1983, Guthrie was the dean of the School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley. After serving as a professor in the graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley, Guthrie was an education specialist in the U.S. Senate.
A published author, Guthrie has served at least 25 state governments and worked with international organizations such as The World Bank and the Organization of American States (OAS).
The state superintendent position pays about $121,785 a year plus benefits.