There had been "pressure building" for her appointment to become permanent, as superintendents and school administrators wanted stability in Tallahassee, said Juhan Mixon, executive director of the Florida Association of School Administrators.
Florida's public education system has had five people in its top job since early 2011. That worried many as it faces critical tasks in the coming year, including implementing Common Core standards, picking a new standardized test to replace most FCAT exams and revising the A to F school grading system.
“I’ve had a chance to work closely with Pam,” said State Board Chairman Gary Chartrand in a statement. ”I think we are at a critical time, so we are going to look to her to work diligently to see us through these issues. There is a lot of work to be done and I am fully confident of her ability to make the right decisions for Florida's children.”
Stewart was in her second stint as interim commissioner, stepping in at the board's request last month after Tony Bennett's resignation.
She served in a similar role after former commissioner Gerard Robinson resigned unexpectedly last year.
The revolving door at the top job at the Florida Department of Education began shortly after Gov. Rick Scott took office. Then Education Commissioner Eric Smith resigned a few months later, with some officials saying he'd never been able to establish a relationship with Scott, though philosophically they were on the same education page.
Former commissioner John Winn served briefly as an interim until Robinson was hired. When Robinson resigned after a year, Stewart stepped in for about five months until Bennett arrived in Tallahassee.
Stewart's professional career has been rooted in Florida's public schools, starting with a teaching job in Hillsborough County in 1975. She has been a teacher, guidance counselor, principal, deputy superintendent and chancellor at the state education department.