In Minnesota, Cheri Pierson Yecke was seen as too conservative, too polarizing, too eager to overhaul public education. But in the power corridors of Tallahassee, Yecke may be more status quo than firebrand.
Yecke, 50, is Florida's new K-12 chancellor, helping to oversee public schools. She started her new job last week and should find the temperatures and the welcome warmer than in her native Minnesota...Yecke said she has a lot to learn about specific issues related to Florida education but is eager to be immersed in a place where so many people share her convictions.
Yecke was the right person at the right time to implement the education reform agenda promised by the winning gubernatorial candidate, Tim Pawlenty, as well as the intrusive federal mandates of President George W. Bush's and Sen. Ed Kennedy's (D-Massachusetts) No Child Left Behind Act. Unfortunately for Yecke, the high-velocity change that she was ordered by state and federal law to carry out ruffled a few too many feathers in an education establishment still reeling from the emotional and academic abuse wrought by The Profile of Learning debacle. Yecke's personal conservative social views sounded alarm bells in the liberal community, and the DFL Senate caucus made political hay by ultimately dumping Yecke.
This fine woman and dedicated educator — articulate, funny, passionate, courageous — was a casualty of Minnesota's political turmoil as it began in 2002 to turn from a perennial "blue state" to a "purple state." In Minnesota, diversity and tolerance are fine, as long as we all think alike and no one upsets the status quo. Sure, you betcha.