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Albany votes in new Regents amid complaints over selection

Albany lawmakers voted in three new members of the Board of Regents today and re-elected two others amid complaints from some legislators who called for more local power over state education policy.

In a joint session of the State Senate and Assembly, legislators voted to approve three new Regents: Kathleen Cashin, James Cottrell, and James Jackson. Cashin, whose nomination to the Brooklyn seat I wrote about last week, is a prominent former Department of Education official and a quiet critic of some of Mayor Bloomberg’s education policies. Cottrell, an at-large member of the Regents, is an anesthesiologist and a professor at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. Jackson, who will represent Albany and other towns in the third judicial district, is a former high school principal.

The legislature also voted to re-elected Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Regent Anthony Bottar, both of whom have been on the board since 1996.

Most lawmakers signed off on the new and returning Regents members, but some criticized the selection process through which a committee of legislators vet applicants before the entire body votes.

Assemblyman Steve Katz, a Republican from Yorktown, complained that though two-dozen people had applied for the Regents positions, lawmakers were only given two candidates’ names less than 24-hours before the vote.

“We’ve all heard about Albany’s notorious dysfunction and now working in Albany, I have certainly seen it first-hand, but the lack of openness on voting for new Regents members truly takes the cake,” he said in a statement. “I can understand why many of my colleagues vote against the process, or abstain from voting all together.”

Democratic Assemblyman Mark Schroeder also criticized the Board of Regents, saying that a group of 17 people who aren’t directly elected shouldn’t be able to choose New York State’s education commissioner.

“As elected officials, we are accountable, we should be responsible for our education system,” he said.

Only once was a critique or complaint levied at one of the Regents candidates, all of whom were praised by the lawmakers who seconded or thirded their nominations. But when it came time to vote on Cashin’s nomination, Brooklyn Assemblywoman Inez Barron said she wouldn’t support Cashin because when she was superintendent of District 23 — back when New York City had powerful school districts — not all schools were treated the same.

“There were schools that were plum schools that got resources over other schools that did not. There were people that were advanced over other people that did not,” Barron said.

Brooklyn Assemblyman Darryl Townes, who supported Cashin, said he had a different impression of her. He told the assembled legislature:

When I first met Dr. Cashin, I was introduced to her by some of the educational leaders in my community. I was with two parents. One looked at her and said, “She looks mean, like she might be a fighter.” The other parent said, “No she looks saintly like she might be a nun.” It didn’t take me long to realize they both were right.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s press release:


Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Education Committee Chair Catherine Nolan and Higher Education Committee Chair Deborah Glick today announced the re-election of Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch and Anthony S. Bottar to the New York State Board of Regents. The Assembly and Senate, in a joint session of the Legislature, also elected Kathleen M. Cashin, James E. Cottrell, M.D. and James O. Jackson to the 17-member board.

The Legislature elects the Board of Regents to set educational policy from pre-kindergarten through higher education, as well as to oversee the state’s 48 licensed professions. One member is elected from each of the state’s 13 judicial districts and four members serve at-large. Each member serves a five-year term.

“The election and re-election of these distinguished individuals to the Board of Regents demonstrates the Assembly Majority’s ongoing commitment to making education a priority,” said Silver (D-Manhattan). “Particularly during these difficult economic times, it is critical that we provide all New Yorkers with the education and training that will prepare them to enter the workforce. These Regents will help us fulfill that goal.”

“The return of Chancellor Tisch and Anthony S. Bottar and addition of Kathleen M. Cashin, Dr. James E. Cottrell and James O. Jackson to the Board of Regents will bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to this panel in its effort to help ensure all students receive a quality education,” said Nolan (D-Queens).

“This accomplished Board has a broad range of backgrounds and experiences to draw upon while providing guidance to our states’ elementary schools and universities, libraries and museums, and adult education and vocational programs,” said Glick (D-Manhattan).

Merryl H. Tisch was first elected to the Board in 1996, and selected by her colleagues to be chancellor beginning April 1, 2009. She is chairperson of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, and has previously held the title of chairperson of the Mt. Sinai Children’s Center Foundation. Tisch serves on the executive committees of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the UJA Federation of New York, the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Citizens Budget Commission, and as a board member of The Trust for Cultural Resources of the City of New York, and at both Barnard College and the Dalton School. From 1977 to 1984 she taught first-graders at New York City’s Ramaz School and the B’nai Jeshurun School. Tisch received a B.A. from BarnardCollege, and M.A. in Education from New York University and an Ed. D. from Teachers College, ColumbiaUniversity. She will continue to serve as a Regent At Large.

Anthony S. Bottar was first elected to the Board in 1996, and serves as the chair of the College and Career Preparation Work Group and the P-12 Education Committee. He has served as Trustee and President of the North Syracuse Central School District Board of Education and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Onondaga-Madison School Boards Association. Bottar taught social studies in theRochester area and lectured at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He received a B.A. from theUniversity of Rochester and a Juris Doctor from the State University of New York At Buffalo. He will continue to serve as a Regent for the 5th Judicial District.

Kathleen M. Cashin has served the students of New York City for over 40 years. She has been a teacher at Holy Innocents School and P.S. 299, principal at P.S. 193 (The Gil Hodges School), superintendent atCommunity School District 23, and regional superintendent for Region 5 in New York City. Cashin is an adjunct professor at Brooklyn College and New York University, and a clinical professor at FordhamUniversity. She was named “Distinguished Educator of the Year” by the New York City Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and has been a member of the Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning’s senior team, which has been responsible for instructional changes across the city. Cashin received her Masters of Science in Education from Brooklyn College and her Doctor of Education fromFordham University. She will serve as a Regent for the 2nd Judicial District.

James E. Cottrell, M.D., is a distinguished service professor at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn and the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal on Neurosurgical Anesthesiology. He has served at New York University, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Kings County Hospital Center, Long Island College Hospital, Lutheran Medical Center, New York University Medial Center, Belleview Hospital Center and Brookdale Hospital Center. Cottrell has been President of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, Vice President and Dean for Clinical Practice at the University Physicians of Brooklyn, Dean for Clinical Practice at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and member of the Board of Directors at the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research. He has mentored over 700 anesthesia residents, delivered over 200 guest lectures and provided 120 visiting professorships across the world. Cottrell received his Medical Degree from West Virginia University. He will serve as a Regent At Large.

James O. Jackson is the Principal Emeritus of Shaker High School, where he served for over 40 years as a teacher, department supervisor and principal. Jackson has worked with the Center for International Leadership in Education, the University in the High School program at SUNY and The Spencer Foundation. He is a Ford Foundation and Northwestern University Fellow and William Randolph Hearst Scholar, and was granted the Capital Area School Development Association’s High School Principal of the Year. Jacksonis a member of the Albany Medical Center Board of Directors and University at Albany Council. He received his Masters Degree in History and Political Science from the College of St. Rose, and his Ph.D. in American History, Administration, Curriculum and Supervision from Northwestern University. He will serve as a Regent for the 3rd Judicial District.

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