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Kershaw leaving DTA for top early education post
State House News Service, Story by Katie Lannan, March 8, 2022
Amy Kershaw, who has led the state's Department of Transitional Assistance since January 2020, will step into the role of acting commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care after a Tuesday vote by the early education board.
Kershaw will take the reins from Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy, who resigned after a tenure of a little more than two years that included the closures of programs in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and implementation of new health protocols during their reopening.
Kershaw told the board that she began her state service in 2005 working for the early education department 25 days after it was created.
"So today is a really meaningful kind of homecoming for me," she said.
She said the throughline of her career has been "about how to make government work better for children and families."
"I know the challenges we're facing are great in access, affordability, equity and outcomes, and many of those existed before COVID but have been really exacerbated by the public health emergency, but we have so much incredible opportunity," Kershaw said.
Kershaw is set to start on March 28 or sooner, and Education Secretary James Peyser will serve as a temporary interim commissioner until she assumes the post. The move creates an opening at DTA as Gov. Charlie Baker serves out his final months in office and members of his team weigh their own career opportunities.
Peyser and board member Joni Block abstained from the vote on the department's leadership, which was otherwise unanimous.
Peyser said his plan is to "keep the organization running as smoothly as possible without making significant policy or personnel decisions that aren't absolutely necessary" and that he would consult with Kershaw and Early Education and Care Board Chair Nonie Lesaux if matters arise requiring urgent action.
Lesaux said Kershaw "wasn't necessarily looking to leave her post at DTA" but was drawn to the "mission and moment."
Kershaw earns a salary of $150,000 at DTA, and Aigner-Treworgy has been paid at an annual rate $218,052.
When Aigner-Treworgy announced her resignation in late February, she did not cite a specific reason or next professional move, though the statement from the Department of Early Education and Care referenced the challenges of leading the agency through the pandemic.
Gov. Charlie Baker has said Aigner-Treworgy's resignation has "nothing to do with" a reported investigation by Inspector General Glen Cunha into her role in awarding an agency contract.
In her goodbye letter, Aigner-Treworgy said she would draw from conversations and relationships during her tenure here "[a]s I navigate my own path forward."
Before the vote, Aigner-Treworgy addressed the board in what she called "a pretty emotional moment" and thanked the state's children and families "for the opportunity to serve in this role and be the voice for them in state government."
She offered a message to educators and program leaders in a farewell letter posted online, writing: "The path of rebuilding might be exhausting, but it is well underway – powered by your tireless efforts and dedicated service. Just looking at all we've accomplished in the midst of so much chaos, I know that Massachusetts has the unprecedented opportunity to show the country what progress can really look like for this sector."
Lesaux said Aigner-Treworgy had "been dogged about her vision for the agency and the field while managing so very ably through the pandemic," and that her work will continue to have an impact on educators, children and families.
Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago also plans to depart at the end of this academic year, and Massachusetts will get a new education secretary when the next governor takes office in January 2023.
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