Tuesday, July 14, 2015

New SED head pledges cooperation with teachers

Posted By on Tue, Jul 14, 2015 at 3:43 PM

In a recent interview with WXXI, New York State’s new education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, struck a civil tone when talking about the state’s teachers.

“I’m going to work very hard to have teachers be part of the agenda to support students,” she said. “That will go a long way for teachers to feel like they have a voice in what’s happening.”

Elia said that teachers will have input into the design of state tests with Questar. The SED did not renew its contract with educational publishing giant Pearson, which had become a controversial corporate partner for many parents, educators, and students.

And she supports granting waivers to delay implementing new teacher evaluations for a year, as long as district leaders can show progress working with their unions to develop effective evaluations.

These steps may be nothing more than a charm offensive, but considering the soured view that many teachers and parents have of Governor Andrew Cuomo's education agenda, the Board of Regents, and the State Education Department, Elia is smart to begin her term by rebuilding trust.

Elia seems to be positioning herself as a reasonable and rational leader — one who is less aligned with the pro-charter school and education-reform forces of her predecessor, John King. But Elia comes to the job with some controversy of her own.

The Hillsborough County school board fired her in a 4-to-3 vote from her job as superintendent of that area’s school system, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Some politicians and business people liked her and saw improvement, according to the Times. And they were appalled that the district would spend about $1 million to break her contract and oust her. 

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