Wagner, who is stepping down as the senior deputy commissioner for education policy for the New York State Department of Education this month, served several years as a middle school assistant principal and principal. His nomination is expected to be considered by the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Education next week.
"My top focus is on creating opportunity for Rhode Island families," Raimondo said. "Education is one of the best investments we can make because it is a ladder to success. Ken will provide the expertise and steady hand we must have to build consensus around the best ideas to promote student learning."
"I am here today because Rhode Island is committed to building the educational partnerships needed to be successful," Wagner said. "As we find ways to work together to tackle our educational challenges, I am deeply optimistic that our collective efforts will pay off for the children and families of Rhode Island."
The choice comes following a nationwide search that began after Raimondo wrapped up a statewide listening tour where she met with parents, students, teachers, administrators, district leaders and community members to hear directly from Rhode Islanders what they hoped for in a new commissioner. Common themes emerged with each group calling for a leader who listens and is collaborative, thoughtful and student-centered.
"The Governor's listening sessions as part of the search for our next commissioner were invaluable to us in learning firsthand what is important to students and teachers," Barbara S. Cottam, chair of the Rhode Island Board of Education said. "As a former school psychologist, Ken's approach is to listen and collaborate with people to find solutions that work best for students."
"As the parent of three public school children, I am excited to work with a former middle school principal who knows what it is like to work directly with kids and teachers," said Daniel McConaghy, chair of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education. "As an education innovator he also led the creation of a free curriculum that teachers are turning to nationwide. I look forward to working closely with him to make sure our education system meets the needs of every child."
"I was one of more than 150 stakeholders who saw firsthand the effectiveness of Governor Raimondo's Listening Sessions," said Michael Crudale, Principal of Park View Middle School. "For more than two months, the Governor and her team engaged with the community about finding an Education Commissioner who was a passionate, receptive, and student-centered leader. Park View was fortunate to host a Listening Session, which was a thoughtful approach to gathering feedback from a wide spectrum of Rhode Islanders. Community input is crucial in making such a significant decision, and I am proud that picking a Commissioner was a statewide effort to best serve our students."
Wagner has a proven record of being a hard worker, who learned early on how important it is to engage and listen to classroom teachers. He's served in many roles at the school, district, and state levels, including:
• Local school board representative who was elected while still in high school at the age of 18
• School psychologist in Freeport Union Free School District, New York
• Middle School Assistant Principal and Principal in Herricks and Shoreham-Wading River School Districts in New York;
• District Administrator for Shoreham-Wading River CSD and Eastern Suffolk BOCES, New York
• New York State Department of Education (NYSED) where he held positions responsible for curriculum, technology, and data, most recently the senior deputy commissioner for education policy
Among his chief accomplishments at NYSED, Wagner led the development of EngageNY, a free curriculum aligned with new learning standards that has been downloaded by teachers all across the country more than 20 million times.
He has also worked to expand early childhood learning, helped provide multiple pathways to graduation, including early college high-school experiences, implemented high learning standards, and strengthened programs for English learners, students with special needs, and career and technical education students.
As a principal, Wagner provided instructional leadership for teachers, promoted personalized student learning, led interdisciplinary teacher teams, and facilitated and prioritized parent engagement.