After a four-year tenure in which she oversaw one of the most substantial school-governance overhauls in state history, Vermont Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe is departing state government.
Gov. Phil Scott announced Tuesday that Holcombe gave her notice at the end of last week, and that her last day will be April 1. Scott says Holcombe is leaving the secretary’s post of her own volition.
“This was her decision. I value what she’s given to the state over the last four years, what she’s done for our cabinet,” Scott said Tuesday. “I valued her as a team member — she just decided it was time to move on. She just thought was best for her to leave at this time. It was a personal decision, and she made it.”
Holcombe didn’t immediately respond to an interview request.
Holcombe was first appointed to secretary of the Vermont Agency of Education in 2013, under then-Gov. Peter Shumlin. In 2015, the Legislature passed a landmark school-governance reform law, called Act 46.
Holcombe has since been overseeing the consolidation of school districts the statute required, and was set to make a final decision on merger proposals in June. That responsibility will now fall to her yet-to-be-named successor.
Scott said Tuesday that he doesn’t think Holcombe’s departure will complicate the Act 46 process.
“She has a very strong team at the Agency of Education, as well as a good … State Board [of Education],” Scott said. “We will continue in that regard, so I don’t believe that this will slow down the process whatsoever.”
Scott this year has been pushing for legislation that would require local school districts to cut spending from the budgets that voters approved on Town Meeting Day. Scott says the reductions are needed to avoid an increase in property taxes next year, however many Democratic lawmakers say the governor’s proposal interferes in local spending decisions.
Asked whether he and Holcombe were at odds over his cost-containment proposals, Scott said, “I would just say that we’ve always had discussions.”
“I’ve always been open to having discussions with my cabinet members,” Scott said. “I believe in a team philosophy, where we all get together, we voice our opinions. But at the end of the day, when it’s all done, we come out with one voice, and we’ve done that.”
Scott said he’ll appoint an interim secretary soon. The State Board of Education will forward Scott a list of people that he’ll then consider as a permanent successor.