Chris Nicastro, superintendent of Missouri’s fifth-largest school district (Hazelwood), will step up to face bigger challenges next month. She was named today to be Missouri Commissioner of Education.
The State Board of Education announced her selection this morning during a news conference in Jefferson City.
Nicastro, 58, is only the fifth person – and the first woman – to serve as Missouri’s top official for public schools. She will begin the new job August 1; the board set her salary at $185,400.
“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Nicastro to be Commissioner of Education and the director of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education,” said David Liechti, St. Joseph, president of the State Board of Education.
“Chris brings a strong background of experience in Missouri public schools and a successful track record in a challenging suburban environment. She is well-known within the educational community, and she recognizes the obstacles that we face in helping low-performing schools get better,” Liechti said.
Dr. Nicastro has been superintendent of the Hazelwood School District (almost 19,000 students), in St. Louis County, since 2002. She was honored last fall as the 2009 “Superintendent of the Year” by the Missouri Association of School Administrators.
“I am deeply honored and humbled to be chosen as Missouri’s leader for public schools. I have had a wonderful experience in Hazelwood, and I think that experience has prepared me to take this big step. I am looking forward to working with other state officials and the State Board of Education to sustain the progress that Missouri has made over the past 15 years,” she said.
She will replace D. Kent King who died in January of this year after serving almost nine years as Commissioner of Education.
“Commissioner King was a good friend and ally,” Nicastro said. “He provided critical leadership for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in the development of our accreditation standards, and he made some courageous decisions to intervene in some school districts that were failing. I hope to honor that legacy,” she said.
Dr. Nicastro began her career in Missouri public schools in the Northwest R-I High School (Jefferson County), working as a social studies teacher and assistant superintendent (1976-1984). She worked 11 years as an assistant superintendent in the Ritenour School District, St. Louis County (1984-1995). She was superintendent of the Riverview Gardens School District (St. Louis County) for seven years (1995-2002) before taking the Hazelwood post.
“Missouri has established a framework of high standards and expectations – long before we knew the federal mandates of No Child Left Behind. Our challenge is to bring excellent teaching and greater educational opportunities to every classroom and community in this state.
“I know just how hard it can be to push for school improvement in a highly political, racially diverse and performance-challenged environment. I also believe that state-level policymakers can provide critical support for local school leaders as they grapple with these realities,” Nicastro said
Thursday, July 02, 2009
Missouri names first woman education commissioner
Hazelwood Superintendent Chris Nicastro has been named Missouri's first education commissioner, replacing the late Dr. Kent King. The following news release was issued by the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: