MARCH 1, 2004 - Posted at 1:43 p.m. CDT, updated at 4:02 p.m.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Former Little Rock school superintendent Ken James is the new director of the Arkansas Education Department.
The state Education Board voted to hire James unanimously today at a brief meeting at the Governor's Mansion. Governor Huckabee made the formal announcment.
James' absence from two weekend school events in Lexington, Kentucky, where he is school superintendent, fueled speculation there that he would return to Arkansas as director of the state Education Department.
Huckabee named Tom Courtway as interim education director to succeed former director Ray Simon, who left the post in October to take an education job with the Bush administration. Simon left on the eve of a special legislative session called to address a state Supreme Court order to overhaul Arkansas' unconstitutional public education system.
Courtway, a tax lawyer, shepherded the Education Department through the record long 61-day special session and in recent days has spearheaded its implementation of Arkansas' first statutory consolidation of schools.