Governor Ned Lamont, on Thursday, announced that he is nominating Charlene M. Russell-Tucker to serve as commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Education. The nomination follows a unanimous vote earlier in the day by the State Board of Education recommending her appointment to the governor under a process required by state statute.
Russell-Tucker has been serving at the State Department of Education for more than 20 years in several roles, including most recently as deputy commissioner, in which she has been responsible for overseeing educational supports and wellness priorities. Since March, she has been serving as the agency’s acting commissioner at the request of Governor Lamont due to the resignation of Miguel Cardona, who left his position as commissioner after being appointed by President Joe Biden to serve as secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.
Governor Lamont said Russell-Tucker’s leadership during this interim period has been so impressive that he asked her to permanently fill the position.
“Charlene has many years of experience working with school districts across Connecticut and I’ve heard nothing but praise about her leadership style and effectiveness,” Governor Lamont said. “Our administration has set strong goals when it comes to improving outcomes for our next generation so they are prepared to fill jobs that lead them through successful careers. I appreciate Charlene’s dedication to the students and families of Connecticut, and I’m excited to have her continuing in this leadership capacity.”
“I am thrilled that Governor Lamont has nominated Charlene Russell-Tucker to serve as commissioner of the State Department of Education,” Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz said. “For the past five months, she has admirably stepped up to fill Secretary Cardona’s shoes and has played a critical role in getting Connecticut’s children back to school safely. Connecticut’s families are fortunate to have her leading the State Department of Education.”
“I am humbled to be given the opportunity to continue to lead the incredible team at the Connecticut State Department of Education as we join forces with educators and stakeholders to build a nation-leading education system that is resilient to the challenges we face and inclusive of all our students and families,” Russell-Tucker said. “Thank you to Governor Lamont and the State Board of Education their confidence in my leadership.”
Throughout her career, Russell-Tucker has passionately supported family and community engagement in education and led school attendance and school discipline initiatives with a strong focus on equity and diversity.
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, she has been a crucial voice in supporting student attendance and engagement as schools have conducted hybrid and remote learning. Additionally, she has spearheaded the collaboration efforts with the Connecticut Department of Public Health to ensure provision of technical assistance and guidance development for a successful, healthy, and safe school year.
Prior to serving as deputy commissioner, she was chief operating officer and division chief for the agency’s Office of Student Supports and Organizational Effectiveness. She also served as associate commissioner of education and bureau chief, overseeing a portfolio of programs and services that included student health, family and community engagement, nutrition and safety, magnet and charter schools, adult education, and special education.
Throughout her career, she has participated in a variety of state and national committees, including with the Chronic Absenteeism Strategic Action Group for the Connecticut General Assembly’s Committee on Children, and she has served as an expert panel member on committees of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. She also served as president of the Connecticut Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and as a member of the national Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Russell-Tucker also has extensive teaching experience, formerly serving as an adjunct faculty member at Albertus Magnus College School of New Dimensions. In 2015, she was named to the inaugural class of 100 Women of Color in Connecticut. In 2018, she was welcomed to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s Council of Champions. Recognizing mentoring relationships are key to maintaining students’ correction to school, she has endeavored to uphold mentoring as an intervention in combating chronic absenteeism and was named MENTOR National’s 2021 Excellence in Mentoring Honoree in State and Local Public Service.
“Charlene’s nomination ensures that a focus on excellence and equity will continue within the state,” State Board of Education Chair Allan Taylor and Vice Chair Erin Benham said in a joint statement. “This nomination will allow us to sustain and grow our efforts to ensure all residents, regardless of race and ethnicity, are able to obtain the education they need to be productive members of society.”
“As acting commissioner of the State Department of Education, Charlene Russell-Tucker has provided exceptional leadership to Connecticut schools during an extremely challenging time,” Glenn Lungarini, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools and the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, said. “Her collaborative approach to leadership has given a voice to all education stakeholders. It has been grounded in placing the best interest of students at the center of the department’s decision-making. Whether we are working through the challenges of COVID-19 or statewide diversity, equity, and inclusion, or providing exceptional education-based learning experiences that promote each child's cognitive, social, emotional, mental, and physical health, Connecticut is fortunate to have Commissioner Russell-Tucker as our courageous educational leader.”
“During her time as interim commissioner, we have found Charlene to be passionate, understanding, and welcoming of input from all education stakeholders, and we look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with her as she takes the helm of the State Department of Education and tackles the unprecedented challenges facing public education,” Connecticut Education Association President Kate Dias said. “As a former educator herself, Charlene understands the needs of our students. She is particularly concerned about students’ social emotional learning and well-being, especially in light of the trauma caused by the pandemic and other outside influences that weave their way into our children’s lives and classrooms. She respects educators as the professionals that they are, seeking teachers’ voices in efforts to improve public schools, and she is a champion of a racially and socially just and equitable education system that ensures all students have the opportunity to succeed, regardless of where they live.”
“As acting commissioner, Charlene Russell-Tucker has had very large shoes to fill,” Jan Hochadel, president of AFT Connecticut, said. “Our members appreciate her commitment to achieving our shared goals of safe, healthy schools, and public education workspaces. We may not always agree, but I am confident she will maintain collaborative, open, and transparent communication with education stakeholders. That is how we’ve taken on so many of the challenges this pandemic has caused, and how we will successfully tackle those that remain unresolved. Congratulations!”
“As education advocates who have known and worked with Charlene for years, we are delighted that she will has become the next education commissioner,” Connecticut Association of Boards of Education Executive Director Robert Rader and Deputy Director and General Counsel Patrice McCarthy said in a joint statement. “Charlene has long been an advocate for public education, particularly our most vulnerable, disenfranchised, and needy students. We look forward to strengthening our work with the commissioner, State Board of Education, and the State Department of Education.”
“Charlene is a superb choice for education commissioner at this time,” Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said. “She is a talented leader who is experienced, collaborative, and knowledgeable. Most importantly, the success of Connecticut’s students will be and always has been front and center of all her work. We are fortunate to have her as our educational leader at this crucial time.”
Russell-Tucker will serve as commissioner-designate effective immediately. Her nomination is being forwarded to the Connecticut General Assembly for its advice and consent.