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Dr. Tommy Bice, State Schools Chief, Announces Retirement

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Dan Carsen, WBHM/SED

Alabama schools chief Tommy Bice, center right, at the April 2012 Birmingham school board meeting where board members begged the state to intervene. Birmingham Mayor William Bell is shown center left.

Dr. Tommy Bice, Superintendent of the Alabama State Department of Education, today announced his retirement, set to go into effect at the end of this month.

Bice has served that role for four years and is generally seen as an effective leader through a politically tumultuous time. Among other key policy actions, he’s helped develop, implement, and defend the state’s Common-Core based College- And Career-Ready Standards; directed the state education department’s 2012 takeover of Birmingham City Schools; and presided over recent and continuing increases in Alabama’s high school graduation rate.

According to a statement released today, Bice will become education director of the Mike and Gillian Goodrich Foundation. An ALSDE spokesperson says the earliest an interim might be named would be at the State Board of Education meeting March 10.

The entire statement from the Alabama State Department of Education follows:

State Superintendent of Education Announces Retirement- Dr. Tommy Bice Leaves Office, But not his Passion for Children

Montgomery, Ala. – After more than 39 years of service to public education, State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Tommy Bice, has announced plans to retire from his post as Alabama’s educational leader.

In his more than four years as State Superintendent of Education, Bice has charted a course to improve public education that includes improving graduation rates, increasing students’ college- and career-readiness, establishing rigorous academic standards and meaningful assessments and accountability systems, supporting teachers and leaders to create innovative learning opportunities for students, and advocating for adequate funding for schools and school systems.

Dr. Bice leaves a legacy of his vision to accomplish these things and much more through PLAN 2020, the state’s strategic plan for education reform. Through changes in leadership and election cycles, PLAN 2020 continues as intended, focused on creating a student-centered culture for innovation and creativity while meeting each student’s individual needs and passions.

“While I may be retiring from formal public education, my work on behalf of students is far from over,” Dr. Bice said. “I will return to where my greatest passion lies – working with inner city students, their teachers and leaders to transform not only the educational opportunities for students, but the communities in which they live.”  After a period of renewal and reflection Dr. Bice will join the Mike and Gillian Goodrich Foundation as their Education Director later this spring.

Dr. Bice said the trajectory of public education in Alabama is moving in the right direction and he is certain teachers and administrators will continue to do what they have always done, aggressively pursue quality education for the state’s greatest commodity – students.

“I retire knowing that public education in our state is moving forward at an accelerated pace due to the dedicated teachers and leaders who have embraced the policy environment created by our State Board of Education,” Dr. Bice said.

“An environment where innovation and creativity are not only encouraged, but expected and supported. At the end of every school visit I take, I leave knowing that a great work is underway at the local level. I see faculties, parents, community organizations and students creating learning opportunities that are engaging and relevant to today’s student.”

As he leaves the formal setting of public education, Dr. Bice’s parting message for those in roles that impact public education policy and practice is to truly understand that the measure of success for Alabama’s students and schools cannot be defined by a single test, on a single day, but rather multiple indicators of student learning that embrace the individual strengths and challenges of each student that are often observable only to those who know the student best—their parents and their teacher.

Dr. Bice’s retirement is effective March 31, 2016.