Arizona’s far East Valley will likely need new representation after State Sen. Rich Crandall was tabbed as the head of Wyoming’s Department of Education this week.
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead selected Mesa Republican Crandall from a list of three finalists vying for the state’s top school post. His appointment still requires Wyoming state Senate approval.
On the phone from the airport Thursday night, Crandall said his new post is “exciting.”
“They have infrastructure already in place, broadband technology. As far as National Board Certification (of teachers), they are in the top three,” Crandall said of Wyoming. “With infrastructure, great teachers and resources, there are some incredible opportunities.”
Crandall said it’s still unknown when he will vacate the Senate seat, since his new post still needs approval in Wyoming.
Crandall has been a staunch supporter of “blended learning” and the use of technology in classrooms to individualize education. He traveled to conferences nationwide on the topic the last few years and was appointed to the Digital Learning Council, a group created by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Crandall took his presentation across Arizona as well, encouraging schools to take on the ideas.
But his own legislation to make it more of a reality in Arizona was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer last year, an event Crandall calls one of his biggest disappointments of his work on the state Legislature.
“The one thing I regret is not getting good, comprehensive digital learning education through,” he said. “We’re still the wild, wild West in online learning. The governor vetoed my bill two years ago and no one here has picked it up.”
Crandall started his public service as a member of the Mesa Unified School District governing board. While in that office, he successfully ran for the state House in 2006.
In 2010, Crandall ran for state Senate in then-District 19. His 2012 candidacy for Senate in Legislative District 16 required Crandall to move two miles east after the Redistricting Committee redrew boundaries. He won the seat, but announced in March he would not complete his term.
While in the Arizona Legislature, Crandall served on both the House and Senate Education committees. Arizona Superintendent of Instruction John Huppenthal cited the Crandall-backed legislation, “Move on When Ready,” as significant for the state.
“Senator Crandall was an energetic legislator. His ‘Move on When Ready’ legislation will leave a positive mark on education in Arizona. I wish him the best,” Huppenthal said in an email to the Tribune.
“Move on When Ready” created a pathway for high school students to receive a high school diploma when they prove competency on college-level academic exams, rather than just “seat time” and high school credits. The Grand Canyon Diploma has been adopted by schools in Gilbert and Mesa, as well as others across the state.
Crandall also sponsored “Move on When Reading” legislation that mandates students prove they can read at the third-grade level before they can advance to fourth grade. That law will be put into practice for the first time with this upcoming school year’s third graders.
District 25 state Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, said the reasons he thinks Crandall earned the appointment were rooted in his knowledge of education, Wyoming’s desire for a “fresh look” for the position and for his connections with politicians like Jeb Bush. Worsley also credited Crandall for his balance in championing charter and public schools.
“I’m sad to see him leave; it’ll be a loss for the state,” he said.
According to Arizona Revised Statute 41-1202, the process to replace Crandall begins with the precinct committeemen within his legislative district and within the same county coming up with three candidates who are of Crandall’s political affiliation, meaning the replacement will be a Republican. The terms of the statute eliminates Crandall’s primary opponent, Apache Junction resident John Fillmore, from contention because he resides in Pinal County.
The committeemen have 21 days to whittle down the number of candidates to three because the Arizona Legislature is not in session; if the Legislature was in session, the committee would have five days to pick its candidates.
Once the candidates are selected, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will pick Crandall’s replacement from the pool of three and select the new senator during a public meeting. County spokesperson Cari Gerchick said the supervisors have a little flexibility with the selection process and are not required to host a formal interview with any of the candidates.
As of June 27, Gerchick said there’s no specific timeframe for the supervisors to vote on Crandall’s replacement, and the earliest the board would pick District 16’s next senator is at its July 15 meeting.
“It’s hard to say when the board would fill that seat because we’re not in session,” she said.
The fact that Crandall is getting a chance to lead the Wyoming Department of Education is a bit of contention in the Wyoming. According to news reports, Mead, who was elected in 2010 as governor, supported legislation there that ultimately stripped the duties of Wyoming Superintendent of Schools Cindy Hill and created a governor-appointed director of education post. Spending by the Wyoming Education Department while under Hill’s two-year watch has also been scrutinized.
A referendum petition to allow Wyoming voters to repeal the law failed to garner enough signatures in May.
In his professional life, Crandall is co-owner of Mesa-based Crandall Corporate Dietitians (CCD) and CN Resource. He is married with seven children.
When asked about any last words for Arizona, Crandall praised Gov. Brewer.
“I appreciate the governor taking a strong stance this year both in high standards and additional funding for education. She said this is where we’re going and it was nice to see her hold her ground. It puts us in a great initiative for the future,” he said. “My daughter is staying here for her senior year at (Mesa’s) Mountain View. I want Arizona education to continue to be fantastic.”
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