hot-topic rightBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

A veteran educator with local roots will fill Bret Schundler’s spot as head of the state education department, a post he commanded less than a year before being fired Friday.

Rochelle Hendricks, who got her start teaching in the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional School District, got the nod from Governor Chris Christie to replace Schundler, who was ousted from the administration after failing to secure federal funds for education. Schundler and his cabinet lost out on coveted Race To The Top money because of a budget error, the Star-Ledger reported.

Now Hendricks, who until Friday held the job as assistant commissioner, will lead the state education department until a new commissioner is named.

According to a report from New Jersey Newsroom, Hendricks taught at R-FH for three years. From there she went on to Princeton University, where she held several roles, then moved to the state DOE under Governor Thomas Keane.

Hendricks’s sudden advancement came on the heels of a highly visible exit for Schundler, who was shown the door by Christie for making a mistake on the application to receive about $400 million in federal education funds.

It wasn’t long ago that Schundler was on a statewide tour promoting those funds and the state’s application for them. One stop included Red Bank, where Schundler got choked up when talking about the prospect of receiving the grant and bettering state education.

During that same June visit, Schundler had reportedly been in hot water with Christie, again over the Race To The Top money. Schundler drew criticism for apparently compromising with the New Jersey Education Association on how to dish out merit pay if the state were to pull in the grant.

A video of Schundler’s reaction to his firing can be found here.