New Leaders principal recruitment program, has taken on an even more challenging task. He's Gov. Pat McCrory's new senior education adviser, at a time when game-changing education proposals are flying around Raleigh like Frisbees at a beach party.
Guckian (goo-CAN) got the job in May, while I was on vacation. He had met McCrory during his stint as Charlotte mayor, but Guckian said the connection was made by John Lassiter, a key member of the McCrory team and a board member of New Leaders.
"I'm a plumber's kid," Guckian said. "When the governor calls, that's not a call you get every day."
When I finally caught up with Guckian late last week, he wasn't ready to stake out positions on some of the more controversial issues in play, such as vouchers for private school tuition and revising teacher pay. So far he's talking about broad themes such as efficiency, innovation, workforce development and accountability. "We're still crafting an overall education agenda," he said.
McCrory doesn't have children. But between Guickian and Lassiter, a former Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools parent and school board member, he'll surely get a deep knowledge of local issues.
"If you want to know what I care about, it's our highest-need kids in North Carolina," Guckian said. That passion and knowledge comes not just from his work with New Leaders (formerly New Leaders for New Schools) and Teach For America, but from his time as a Shamrock Gardens Elementary School parent. Shamrock, a high-poverty school in east Charlotte, has spent years working to improve its academic performance and win the confidence of middle-class families who had avoided the school.
"You don't just flip a switch with this stuff," he said. "It is really hard work."
Guckian will work with the newly revived Education Cabinet, made up of officials who oversee prekindergarten programs, K-12 education, community colleges and the university system. One of the governor's goals is building stronger connections between all the levels of education that get young people ready for successful adult lives, he said.
New Leaders will celebrate Guckian's work at a reception next week. They'll also have a retirement send-off for Steve Hall, a former CMS principal who led the aspiring principals program.