Robert Bennett
Robert Bennett

Opening the door to new leadership just as the state is planning changes to its education system, Robert Bennett, the chancellor of the state’s Board of Regents, is announcing today that he will step down at the end of the month, one year before his term was set to end. Bennett’s decision comes as the Board of Regents is searching for a new state education commissioner to replace Richard Mills, who announced his plan to retire late last year. The Regents have also been steering a reorganization of the state Education Department.

Bennett, a Buffalo native who ran United Way’s chapter there and once served as mayor of that city, announced his decision to step down in a short letter dated today. He gave no reason for his departure, but said he intends to continue his service as board member. “As we all know, there are many issues that warrant our collective attention and resolution,” he wrote. “I am very grateful to all of you for your confidence and support. It has been a unique and tremendous honor to serve as Chancellor.”

The Board of Regents will elect its next chancellor on March 16 and 17, the date of the group’s next meeting. Merryl Tisch of Manhattan, who is an ally of the Bloomberg administration, is vice chancellor of the Board of Regents. The board also includes some critics of the administration. Tisch did not immediately return my phone call this evening after the press release was sent out (at about 5 o’clock).

Mills, the departing commissioner, said of Bennett: “I never found a better companion with whom to visit a pre-kindergarten or a school. He demands the best for every kid and is impatient with barriers he finds in their way.”

Bennett had been chancellor since 2002. Here is the full text of his letter: