Maine Department of Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen will become the director of innovation for the nonpartisan Council of Chief State School Officers starting in September, according to a press release from Gov. Paul LePage's office.

Bowen has been recruited by the Council of Chief State School Officers to become their Strategic Initiative Director of Innovation, which includes oversight of their Innovation Lab Network.

The nonpartisan, nationwide nonprofit provides leadership, advocacy and technical assistance on major education issues and includes all state education department heads. Bowen will support states in taking on policy and practices changes to transform their public education systems.

Bowen’s last day at the department he has headed since March 2011 is Sept. 12. The Rockport resident will be based in Maine for his new job but will travel across the country on behalf of the Washington, D.C.,-based organization.

“I am pleased that Steve will be working to implement innovative practices throughout the nation’s educational systems,” said LePage in the release. “It is encouraging that a national organization committed to educational excellence has recognized Commissioner’s Bowen passion and dedication for improving schools and student outcomes. We wish him well, and we hope that he can continue to improve Maine’s educational system by introducing best practices from around the country to our state.”

During the last two and a half years, education has undergone significant transformation with the arrival of student choice through the authorization of Maine’s first five charter schools and the advancement of school accountability with the launch of A-F performance grading system and the application for flexibility from the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the press release states.

Bowen said in the press release the decision to leave Maine DOE was a difficult one, adding he felt “extraordinarily fortunate” to have served a governor with the passion for education of Governor LePage.

“This is not a step I take lightly,” the commissioner wrote to the governor in his resignation letter. “I firmly believe in the reform work we are doing here in Maine and I am confident that the reforms we have advanced, both in terms of education policy and in terms of how the Department of Education does its work to support schools and students, will lead to improved student outcomes.”

In his remaining four weeks at Maine DOE, Bowen will work with his senior leadership team including Deputy Commissioner Jim Rier and Chief Academic Officer Rachelle Tome to develop a plan that will ensure the department’s momentum is maintained throughout the transition, including its commitment to supporting schools improve.

An acting commissioner will be named in the coming weeks, according to the press release.