PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – After serving more than 30 years as an Oregon educator, Director of the Oregon Department of Education Colt Gill will retire following the upcoming legislative session, Governor-elect Tina Kotek announced Friday. 

The news came as Kotek announced two new additions to her education policy staff, a new behavioral health director and a new housing initiative director. 

The 2023 Oregon legislative session ends June 25. 

In the coming months, Kotek said a national search will be announced to find Gill’s replacement. 

Gill was appointed to the Oregon Department of Education in 2016 as the education innovation officer. He became director in 2018. 

Kotek said that during Gill’s time at ODE, he helped improve graduation outcomes for Oregon students by working collaboratively with local communities, school districts, researchers and students. 

Gill helped guide Oregon schools through the COVID-19 pandemic and helped with the implementation of the Student Success Act, the state’s largest investment in its schools. 

“Colt Gill earned a reputation as a strong advocate for education equity, helping to make our schools more inclusive for all Oregon students,” Kotek said. “I appreciate his many years of public service – both as an advocate and as a leader in our state government.” 

As Gill prepares to step away from his role in state government, others are stepping in. 

Kotek announced Pooja Bhatt will serve as the new education initiative director and Melissa Goff will serve as the governor’s education advisor. 

Bhatt will oversee the governor’s agenda on improving early learning and K-12 outcomes. She has more than 15 years of policy experience and most recently served as the co-founder and managing partner of See Change, an education policy consulting firm. 

Before that, Bhatt served as Gov. Kate Brown’s education policy advisor. 

Goff will be expected to provide leadership and support on educational issues, including an expanded focus on supporting early learning and K-12 education-related agencies. She previously served as the deputy executive director for the Oregon School Boards Association. 

Bhatt is part of the governor’s Policy Initiatives Team. It’s a new structure within the governor’s office that will focus on three priority issues: education, behavioral health and housing. 

Annaliese Dolph will serve as the behavioral health initiative director on the team and Taylor Smiley Wolfe will serve as the housing initiative director. 

In 2023, Oregon will have a new behavioral health director as Ebony Clarke steps into the role. She’s spent more than 25 years working in behavioral health and most recently served as the director of Multnomah County’s Health Department. 

“These talented individuals are ready to dig into the details and form solutions that will deliver results for Oregonians. I’m grateful to have strong leaders joining my team who are ready to take on three of our state’s biggest challenges: housing and homelessness, mental health and addiction care, and successful schools,” Kotek said.