Dr. Randy Watson was named Kansas Commissioner of Education by the Kansas State Board of Education in November 2014. He assumed his role July 2015. As the state’s chief education officer, he provides leadership to the Kansas State Department of Education in carrying out the policies and programs prescribed by the State Board of Education to ensure the necessary oversight and support is provided to assist Kansas schools, educators and students in achieving their goals.
Dr. Watson began his education career in 1981 as a high school social studies teacher in Tescott, KS. He has served as a high school principal and provided classroom instruction at the university level. Most recently, Dr. Watson served the community of McPherson for 22 years — working as an assistant superintendent from 1993-2005 and as superintendent from 2005-2015. A native of Coffeyville Kansas, Dr. Watson attended Kansas State University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in science in secondary administration, staff supervision and staff development, building level certification. Additionally, he received his doctorate of education in secondary administration, school law, curriculum development and instructional leadership, and district level certification. The recipient of many awards, Dr. Watson was named an Alumni Fellow at Kansas State and in 2015, was honored by being named the Kansas Superintendent of the Year.
Throughout his career, Dr. Watson has been sought out by schools, districts, education organizations and others for his educational insights as well as his clear thinking around the issues and challenges facing policymakers, educators and students.
Dr. Stuart Omdal was an elementary teacher for 15 years, both in the regular classroom and as a gifted education coordinator facilitating the Schoolwide Enrichment Model. After completing graduate school at the University of Connecticut in 1995 he has been a professor of gifted education at the university of Northern Colorado (UNC). He is the Education Director for the Summer Enrichment Program and Assistant Director o the Center for the Education & Study of Gifted, Talented, Creative Learners at UNC. His professional interests include creativity in education, twice-exceptionality, underachievement of students from non-dominant cultural and language groups, and the evaluation of gifted education teachers. He is on the board of directors for the National Association for Gifted Children and the Association for the Education of Gifted Underachieving Students (AEGUS), the Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented (CAGT), and the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC).
Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist. She founded and directs the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development, and its subsidiaries, Gifted Development Center (GDC) and Visual-Spatial Resource in Denver, Colorado. In the last 35 years, she has studied over 6,000 children who have been assessed at GDC, the largest data bank on this population. This research enabled the creation of extended norms on the WISC-IV. In 1981, she originated the concept of the “visual-spatial learner” (VSL) and has created methods of identifying and teaching this population. Her Ph.D. is in educational psychology and special education from the University of Southern California. For nine years, she served on the faculty of the University of Denver in counseling psychology and gifted education. She has been studying the psychology and education of the gifted since 1961 and has written over 300 articles, chapters and books, including Counseling the Gifted and Talented, Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner and Advanced Development: A Collection of Works on Gifted Adults. Her latest book, Giftedness 101 (New York: Springer, 2013), went into third printing within 6 months of its release. A popular presenter, Linda has keynoted conferences in New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Denmark, Ireland, the U.S., and others.
M. René Islas is the executive director of the National Association for Gifted Children. Prior to joining NAGC, René served as Sr. Vice President of Learning Forward, an international non-profit education association. He launched the Center for Results under a “social enterprise” business model to support leaders in education in developing systems to improve teacher effectiveness and implement quality practice in educator professional learning. Revenue from the Center’s work contributed to more than 25 percent of the association’s annual operating budget.
René has over a decade of experience leading education reform through practical and policy work at the federal, state, and local levels. He developed the Pathway to Achievement, a highly successful school improvement framework that is currently being implemented in elementary and secondary schools across the United States. René is a recognized expert in education public policy, working in the public and private sectors. His government experience includes service as a Special Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Education and Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary of Education where managed the overall operations, policy development, and administration of programs within the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Among his writings, René authored the foreword of Paul Kimmelman’s Leadership Triangle, a book published by Corwin Press on the new leadership needed in elementary and secondary education, and co-authored “Overview of the U.S. Department of Education” for the Encyclopedia of Education.