Missouri’s Commissioner of Education has announced her retirement. Chris Nicastro will retire at the end of this year, having been Commissioner for five years.

Chris Nicastro testifies in a House Committee Hearing (courtesy; Missouri House Communications)

Chris Nicastro testifies in a House Committee Hearing (courtesy; Missouri House Communications)

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced her retirement in a statement touting accomplishments during her term. It focuses on the launching of the 10 by 20 initiative that aims to have Missouri student achievement rank among the top 10 states in the nation by 2020, the implementation of new standards for learning, for district classification, for early childhood education and for educator preparation.

Nicastro’s term has also been marked by controversy, however.

An audit released last month found problems in the way the Department hired a consultant to carry out Nicastro’s plan to overhaul the Kansas City School District. She has also been criticized for pushing unaccredited school districts to form a super school district. The Department has also been criticized for its handling of the student transfer law regarding unaccredited districts in the St. Louis region.

Several state lawmakers and some organizations have called for Nicastro’s resignation in recent months.

The state Board of Education’s president, Peter Herschend, has been supportive of Nicastro, and remains so in a statement regarding her announcement.

“The State Board of Education is grateful for her years of service to education, but even more important is the better life she has worked to achieve for hundreds of thousands of Missouri’s students,” writes Herschend. “Most of those children will never know Chris Nicastro, but those of us involved in this business of education know, and we are appreciative of her tireless service.”

Governor Jay Nixon also expressed praise for Nicastro.

“For nearly four decades, Commissioner Nicastro has dedicated her career to improving public schools and helping students succeed,” Nixon writes. “The progress Missouri’s public schools have made during her tenure as Commissioner is a testament to her unwavering commitment to providing every Missouri child with a high quality education that prepares them to meet the demands of the global economy.”