Mark McQuillan, Connecticut’s commissioner of education under retiring Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, resigned suddenly Wednesday after having expressed interest in working for Democratic Governor-Elect Dannel Malloy.
In a letter to the state Board of Education, McQuillan wrote, “I realized that I no longer wanted to do this work and saw all too plainly that the stresses of my job are more than they should be and more than I am willing to accept.”
But anyone who thinks McQuillan was a shoe-in for either the commissioner’s job or another education post under Malloy doesn’t remember his role in last year’s controversial closing of J.M. Wright Technical School in Stamford.
Malloy was wrapping up his term as Stamford’s mayor and both he and the individual he tapped last week as his general counsel – state Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford – were vocal critics of how the Wright Tech matter was handled.
McDonald, a close friend and confidant of Malloy’s, in particular was frustrated with McQuillan after our newspapers published an in-depth report about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that resulted in the school’s closure.
I phoned McDonald, who technically is not part of the Malloy administration until the new governor is sworn in January 5, and asked him if he would have had significant reservations about McQuillan’s remaining education commissioner.
“I’ve had no comment or position on that,” McDonald said. “I will serve as general counsel to the governor and will advocate his positions, not my own.”
McDonald, however, also said, “Wright Tech was an extraordinarily important issue for Stamford and surrounding communities and I was very disillusioned about how the department handled that issue from the very beginning. It was extraordinarily disappointing and heartbreaking for the students and families who had to live through it.”