Former Bethel superintendent Colt Gill named head of state Department of Education

The Oregon state education department has a new leader — at least for now.

Colt Gill, former longtime superintendent in the Bethel School District, was named Wednesday as the new interim Deputy Superintendent for Public Instruction of the Oregon Department of Education, replacing Salam Noor, who held the position for about 2½ years.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced Noor’s resignation and Gill’s interim appointment in a news release Wednesday, but she did not expand on what prompted the decision or whether the change was voluntary.

“I thank Salam for his service to the state of Oregon,” she wrote in the release.

Gill did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Brown selected Noor to lead the department July 1, 2015. He’d formerly served as the director of academic planning and policy for the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission. Before that, he was the assistant superintendent for the Salem-Keizer School District.

Although Brown didn’t offer details about why Noor stepped down, she stressed in her news release the importance of reaching under-served students and increasing graduation rates — something Gill was hired to do for the state education department last year:

“Our top priority is to make sure that every single student graduates from high school with a plan for their future,” Brown said. “In our efforts to improve student learning and achieve critical outcomes, we must be responsive to the diverse cultures and communities reflected in our education system while ensuring that every dollar of public investment for our students is well spent.”

Brown recruited Gill, who formerly served as the Bethel district’s superintendent for 10 years, to be the state’s first “education innovation officer” in April 2016. Gill’s job, as the innovation officer, was to help increase the number of students completing high school and to improve the state’s dismal graduation rate.

Gill has been an educator for about 27 years, and Brown hopes his experience will “ensure that all students will have access to excellent teachers, wraparound services and hands-on learning opportunities they need after graduation.”

Brown also touched on Gill’s strong connections with the community.

“As education innovation officer, Colt has cultivated strong partnerships with rural and urban school districts, communities and students, recommending policies that will improve student success in every corner of the state.”

It’s unclear how much Gill will be paid in his new position. In April 2016, his annual starting salary with the state was $170,000, according to Brown’s press secretary, Melissa Navas. Gill earned about $155,000 annually as Bethel’s superintendent.

The state education department will search for a permanent deputy superintendent throughout the state in the coming weeks, the statement said.

In addition to her announcement Wednesday, Brown also laid out four “specific directives” that she expects the education department to meet in the coming months and years.

In her “letter on education,” she directed state officials to, among other things: establish a budget for the 2019-21 biennium, develop a new statewide learning plan; achieve high school graduation goals for all student populations and expand career pathways aligned to workforce needs by collaborating with workforce, business and industry partners.

Follow Alisha on Twitter @alisharoemeling. Email .

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