Today, Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro announced her plans to retire at the end of 2014. The commissioner has served since 2009 and is the fifth person to serve in the position.
“The State Board of Education is grateful for her years of service to education, but even more important is the better life she has worked to achieve for hundreds of thousands of Missouri's students,” said Peter Herschend, president of the State Board of Education. “Most of those children will never know Chris Nicastro. But those of us involved in this business of education know, and we are all appreciative of her tireless service.”
During her tenure, the State Board of Education and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education launched Top 10 by 20, a major improvement effort that aims for student achievement in Missouri to rank among the top 10 states by 2020. Top 10 by 20 work has focused on three primary goals: to ensure that all students graduate from high school ready for college and career; to ensure that all Missouri children enter kindergarten ready for success in school; and to ensure that Missouri has a system in place that prepares, develops and supports effective teachers and leaders. A fourth goal, tied to the first three, has been to improve Department efficiency and operational effectiveness.
Under these goals, the State Board of Education and the Department have developed and implemented new, higher standards for learning, for district classification, for early childhood education and for educator preparation. Under the direction of the State Board, the Department has launched a number of ambitious programs and has instituted a number of systemic changes.
“I believe strongly that this is the time to take stock, fine-tune programs and practices we’ve put in place, and work closely with stakeholders throughout the State to imbed and implement with fidelity,” said Dr. Nicastro. “This is exactly the right time both personally and professionally for a change in leadership. I will work closely with the State Board and the team to ensure a smooth transition and will be available in the coming months and years as necessary. I will always be a relentless public education advocate in whatever role the future holds.”
Dr. Nicastro has been a teacher and administrator in Missouri public schools for nearly four decades. Dr. Nicastro and her husband live in St. Louis, where all three of their children and 8 grandchildren also reside.