A little more than five years ago, a small group of men and women sat together interviewing the final candidates for the position of Missouri Commissioner of Education. We had agreed among ourselves that we had to find the new leader for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). We wanted a new leader committed to significant positive change – change measured in far better education results for Missouri's 1,000,000 students. The status quo was not acceptable.
We took our responsibility seriously. We screened multiple candidates – many of them very well qualified.
Then, we made our final recommendation to the State Board of Education. Dr. Chris Nicastro was the person nominated and then selected by the State Board. The Board wanted positive change for the students. The Board wanted a true leader, not just a manager. The Board wanted a leader who would bring focus to the complex task of educating Missouri's public school students as well as a challenge to the professional educator community.
Dr. Chris Nicastro did both. She has proven herself time and time again in the heat of battle and in the victories she has worked to bring to public education in our state.
The State Board of Education is grateful for her years of dedicated service to education, but even more important is the better life she has worked to achieve for hundreds of thousands of Missouri's students. Most of those youngsters will never know Chris Nicastro. They won't know she cared deeply about them and their future. They will never know the difference her leadership has made in their lives.
But those of us involved in this business of education know, and whether friend or loyal opposition, we are all appreciative beyond words for the gifts she has given to all of us.
Dr. Chris Nicastro, we thank you.