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Van Hise Hall

Van Hise Hall in Madison includes the office of University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross, who appointed Aaron Seligman as director of the System's Office of Educational Opportunity. 

The University of Wisconsin System announced Thursday a new person will take over its Office of Educational Opportunity — the state’s third “charter czar” in less than a year.

UW System President Ray Cross appointed Aaron Seligman director of the office, which can bypass local school boards and authorize independent charter schools with the approval of the UW System Board of Regents.

Since the office started roughly three years ago, it has approved two charter schools, according to System spokesman Mark Pitsch. Both schools are in Madison — One City Schools and Isthmus Montessori Academy.

Critics of charter schools say they siphon money from public schools while supporters say charters stimulate innovation and create competition to spur improvement.

The office’s first director, Gary Bennett, initially said the office would be completely transparent and publicly post the names and scores of all applicants in real time on his office website. Bennett, who now serves as Cross’ chief of staff, changed course after System lawyers advised he not publicize anything until the contract negotiation phase or after applicants are rejected. The System refuses to release records on the names of the people recruited by the office to review applications.

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Seligman succeeds Latoya Holiday, who took over as director sometime this winter and then left to join the state Department of Public Instruction.

His salary is $103,000, Pitsch said. Twenty-two people applied for the position.

Seligman previously worked as assistant director of the UW Hillel Foundation at UW-Madison. He also practiced commercial and political law at Godfrey & Kahn and taught high school Spanish in Washington, D.C.

He is from Madison and graduated from the Madison School District. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis, a master’s in teaching from American University and a law degree from UW-Madison.

He starts Aug. 1.

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