Nevada’s superintendent of public instruction abruptly resigned Friday after one year on the job.
Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval announced Dr. James Guthrie’s resignation as most lawmakers headed home for the Easter weekend.
“Dr. Guthrie moved to Nevada and helped the state reform how we approach education,” Sandoval said in a statement. “While we continue this work, I thank him for his service to our great state and I wish him the best.”
Guthrie, 76, told The Associated Press he told the governor he was “honored to have had a chance to hold this position, and I regret that I must resign, and that I appreciate his giving me a chance to serve.”
Guthrie said he couldn’t say why he resigned, but Sandoval’s education proposals were on the right track and he has no plans to retire.
“I will be seeking a position in which I can continue to make American education better for the children,” he said in a phone interview about two hours after his resignation.
Guthrie was the first appointed superintendent under education reforms pushed by Sandoval and approved by the 2011 Legislature. Previously, superintendents were chosen by the State Board of Education.
Rorie Fitzpatrick, deputy superintendent for teaching and learning, will serve as interim superintendent, Sandoval said.
Democratic Sen. Debbie Smith, of Sparks, was surprised by the announcement and said it presents a substantial challenge for legislators wrestling with education reform.
“I’m focused on the fact that we lost the top person on education with just two weeks left to figure out some big issues,” Smith told the AP. “You now have fewer people at the top trying to resolve significant policy and budget issues as we have a short timeline, and we have some really big things we need to work through.”
Guthrie irked Democrats on legislative budget committees this month when he said the number of students in each class shouldn’t be a concern. Democrats have put class size near the top of their priority lists for fixing problems with Nevada education.
Guthrie was senior fellow and director of education policy studies at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas before coming to Nevada, where Sandoval praised Guthrie’s appointment as the “perfect next step” in his education reform plans.
Guthrie was also teaching at the education school of Southern Methodist University at the time of his hire. Previously, he served as an education specialist in the U.S. Senate and worked in the education schools of the University of California, Berkeley; Vanderbilt University; and the University of Southern California.