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Richard Woods wins. He comes in as an outsider. Will that change?

In a Republican sweep of statewide offices, educator Richard Woods won the state school superintendent's post, earning 55 percent of the vote Tuesday.

In a statement, Woods said,

Since the start of this campaign, I have had the opportunity to travel thousands of miles across this great state and speak with thousands of Georgians about education. They share my passion for providing the best possible education for every child.

With my election, Georgians have sent a clear message that they desire a diagnostic approach to standardized testing, a fair tool for evaluating our teachers, and the very best standards for our students.

I have been very clear on my positions and ideas for moving education forward in our  state. Tonight, Georgians were clear that they fully support my child-focused and classroom-centered vision.

There is no doubt that we face many challenges, but I pledge to run the GaDOE in the same fashion as I have run this campaign -- listen to education stakeholders, provide solutions, and move us forward for the betterment of our children's future and the teaching profession. Let's get to work.

In her concession statement, Democrat Valarie Wilson said,

It has been a remarkable eight months. The support was overwhelming, not just for me, but for all of Georgia’s 1.7 million children in public schools. Together, we raised our voices for our children, and they know we have their backs. While we won’t be championing public education from our Georgia Department of Education, we must continue the momentum we’ve built – our children, our educators, our schools and our state depend on it.

 I’d like to wish Mr. Woods well, and I feel confident that the momentum that has been created between our educators, parents, students and supporters won’t stop when we wake up tomorrow. We look forward to working with him.

Woods' election creates an interesting dynamic in Georgia, one of the first states to adopt Common Core State Standards. The state will now be led by a school chief who opposes them.

But Georgia was in a similar position four years ago.

John Barge won the seat opposing the federal Race to the Top program but accepted that the $400 million grant was a done deal and was already making a difference in some districts, particularly in teaching training. (Nathan Deal also opposed Race to the Top but changed his mind as well.)

However, Barge arrived at the Georgia Capitol as an outsider and stayed an outsider. He had a contentious relationship with Deal and the Legislature, especially over cuts to school funding.

Woods also takes office as an outsider. Outsiders have an easier time taking independent stands, but they also have a harder time winning support for their platforms and their budget requests.

The challenge for Woods will be leading a department well down a standards path he doesn't endorse and developing a rapport with a governor and a state board in favor of maintaining Common Core in our schools.

What do you think of the results?

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.