Katie Jenner will serve as Indiana’s first appointed education secretary, the beginning of a new era for a state where the top education official has been elected and often vocally independent.
Her appointment was announced Thursday by Holcomb’s office.
An adviser to Gov. Eric Holcomb, Jenner formerly served as a vice president at Ivy Tech Community College. Jenner has experience in school administration as an assistant principal and assistant superintendent in Madison Consolidated Schools in southern Indiana. Jenner is also on the governor’s commission tasked with making recommendations for how to improve teacher salaries.
Jenner will begin her new role Jan. 11. She has worked alongside Holcomb for over a year, allowing for a smooth transition. It seems likely that her policy priorities will mirror those of the Holcomb administration, which has touted the importance of technology access during the pandemic and pushed for increased teacher pay.
The secretary of education will report directly to Holcomb as part of the cabinet, unlike the independently elected state superintendent. That will allow Holcomb to drive the state’s education agenda without the risk of butting heads with the state’s top educator.
“This is an incredibly important time for education in Indiana. Dr. Katie Jenner has focused her entire career on investing in students, teachers and staff, and she will continue to build the relationships needed to move our state forward in constructive ways,” Holcomb said in a statement. “As Indiana’s Secretary of Education, Dr. Jenner’s certification, work at nearly every level of education and her remarkable depth of experience will lead our state into this exciting next chapter.”
Jenner takes the helm of the department at a tumultuous moment when schools across the state are halting in-person instruction due to the surging pandemic. In addition to helping schools navigate the coronavirus and develop plans for helping students catch up after months of interrupted instruction, Jenner will help shape and implement state policy on testing, school accountability, and education funding.
“My priorities are to ensure high quality education for all students and families, and to provide solution-focused support for our teachers and educational leaders,” Jenner said in a statement.
Jenner will replace Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick, the state’s last elected schools chief. Four years ago, McCormick won election in a wave of Republican support in Indiana, defeating popular Democratic incumbent Glenda Ritz. But she soon won over supporters of traditional public schools.
In the years since she has clashed with fellow Republicans, and this fall, she endorsed Holcomb’s unsuccessful Democratic challenger.
The change to the office was already in the works before McCormick found herself at odds with other politicians. Holcomb began pushing to make the position appointed soon after he won his first term.
McCormick will join EES Analytics as a senior vice president, according to a press release posted Wednesday by the company. EES Analytics, which will launch in January, will offer data analysis for educators.