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Jamaican appointed to lead Connecticut public school system

Published:Friday | March 19, 2021 | 12:23 AMLester Hinds/Gleaner Writer

The newly appointed head of the Connecticut’s public school system is Jamaican Charlene Russell-Tucker.

She will oversee a public school system that caters to 528,000 students across the state.

Russell-Tucker was appointed by Governor Ned Lamont as acting commissioner of the school system after Commissioner Miguel Cardona resigned. Cardona was confirmed by the US Senate to become secretary of education in the Biden administration.

Her appointment comes on a recommendation of the State Board of Education.

Russell-Tucker has more than 20 years’ experience as a professional educator. She has been described as a visionary education leader.

In accepting her appointment, Russell-Tucker said that she will use the opportunity to continue her work.

“I am humbled and grateful to Governor Lamont and the State Board of Education for placing their confidence in me to serve Connecticut’s students, families, and educators in this role,” Russell-Tucker said.

“I will use this opportunity to continue to advance the work of the agency and our educational partners to ensure a seamless transition once a permanent commissioner is named.”

Born in Beckford Kraal, Clarendon, Russell-Tucker attended Liberty Primary School in Clarendon and later Clarendon College.

After migrating to the United States shortly after leaving Clarendon College, she attended St Joseph College in Connecticut and later Albertus Magnus, also in Connecticut, where she obtained both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Until her appointment on March 3, she served as the department’s deputy commissioner, a role in which she oversaw educational support and wellness priorities. Previously, she served as chief operating officer and division chief for the Office of Student Supports and Organizational Effectiveness. She also served as associate commissioner of education and bureau chief, overseeing a portfolio of programmes and services.

Russell-Tucker has served on various state and national committees, including the Connecticut General Assembly’s Committee on Children Strategic Action Group on Chronic Absence, as president of the Connecticut Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, an expert panel member on committees of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

She previously served as an adjunct faculty member at Albertus Magnus College School of New Dimensions.

In 2015, Russell-Tucker was named to the inaugural class of 100 Women of Colour in Connecticut. In 2018, she was welcomed to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s Council of Champions, and most recently, a 2021 recipient of MENTOR National’s Public Service – State & Local Excellence in Mentoring Award.

On a personal note, Russell-Tucker believes in finding and fulfilling one’s purpose.

“An educator herself, Charlene has a lot of experience working with school districts across Connecticut, which is why I believe her appointment to this position will seamlessly aid the state’s education goals during this transition period.” Governor Lamont said.