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Dickinson principal to lead N.D. teacher licensing board

BISMARCK - A Dickinson elementary school principal will take over Wednesday as executive director of North Dakota's teacher licensing board at a time when the state is updating its education standards and collecting data to determine the extent o...

Rebecca Pitkin, Dickinson elementary school principal and former DSU faculty member begins her new job Wednesday as executive director of North Dakota’s Education Standards and Practices Board at a time when the state is dealing with a teacher shortage and rewriting its education standards.
Rebecca Pitkin, Dickinson elementary school principal and former DSU faculty member begins her new job Wednesday as executive director of North Dakota’s Education Standards and Practices Board at a time when the state is dealing with a teacher shortage and rewriting its education standards.

BISMARCK – A Dickinson elementary school principal will take over Wednesday as executive director of North Dakota’s teacher licensing board at a time when the state is updating its education standards and collecting data to determine the extent of its teacher shortage.

The Education Standards and Practices Board hired Rebecca Pitkin to replace Janet Welk, who will retire in December after 18 years as director.

Pitkin has been principal at Jefferson Elementary School in Dickinson since July 2012. Before that, she was an associate professor of education at Dickinson State University for about six years.

Pitkin said Tuesday the ESPB job seemed like the next step career-wise and is a rare opportunity to work simultaneously with K-12 and higher education.

“I have loved my experiences in both,” she said.

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Pitkin holds master’s degrees in educational administration and curriculum and instruction from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a doctorate degree in educational leadership and policy studies from Iowa State University.

The 53-year-old Massachusetts native earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1984 from Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., where she has worked as an adjunct professor during the summers for the past 18 years. She’s also been a classroom teacher in Massachusetts, Nevada, Virginia and Hawaii.

Board chairwoman Mary Eldredge-Sandbo said members unanimously agreed Pitkin was best suited for the job, citing her broad experience.

“We are confident she has the skills, knowledge and passion for education to guide ESPB in the coming years,” she said via email.

About 11,000 teachers and administrators are licensed by the ESPB, an independent board made up of 10 educators, administrators and school board members appointed by the governor to three-year terms. The board office has a staff of eight.

The board offered the job to Pitkin in May, but she couldn’t start until the Dickinson School Board secured a replacement and released her from her contract.

Sara Streeter, who has worked for Grand Forks Public Schools since 2004, most recently as a reading teacher at Wilder Elementary, was selected from about a dozen applicants to replace Pitkin at Jefferson Elementary, Dickinson Superintendent Doug Sullivan said.

Sullivan said Pitkin “has a work ethic that’s second to none, and I’m sure she’ll do an excellent job for ESPB.” Pitkin will receive an annual salary of $130,000.

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Pitkin currently serves on one of the committees created by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler to update the state’s math and English standards. She’s worked closely with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium that develops tests for the Common Core standards, but said she doesn’t have a political position on the much-debated standards.

“I just want to promote effective teaching in a state that has a great education system,” she said.

Pitkin said she’s aware that North Dakota has a reputation of being a tough state for teachers to become licensed, but she believes the board has tried to make its policies more accepting and has “made some recent gains in that area.”

Welk will provide training and support within ESPB and work on special projects until she leaves, a board news release stated.

 

Related Topics: EDUCATIONKIRSTEN BAESLER
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