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Continuing a transition, Board of Regents gains three members

The state’s education policymaking body gained three new members Tuesday, including the education director at Hunter College’s Center for Puerto Rican Studies and a member of a Manhattan Community Education Council.

Luis Reyes, a research associate at Hunter, will fill an open at-large seat on the Board of Regents. Nan Eileen Mead, a public school parent on District 3’s education council, will serve a one-year term as Manhattan’s representative.

“I’m looking forward to taking this natural next step in my advocacy,” Mead said in an interview with Chalkbeat.

The third new Regent, Elizabeth Smith Hankanson, is an educator from Syracuse who has taught for more than 30 years.

State lawmakers made the three appointments Tuesday, and they come at a time of transition for the 17-member board. The Regents have gained seven new members in the last two years, and are set to elect a new leader in March — changes that are likely to shift the dynamics and policy direction of the board, which makes decisions about K-12 and higher education in New York state.

Outgoing Chancellor Merryl Tisch spearheaded a sweeping set of policy changes over the last six years, including the switch to the Common Core learning standards and the adoption of a new teacher evaluation system. Opposition to many of those shifts swelled in recent years, and helped spark a statewide movement by parents to opt their children out of state tests that grew to one in five eligible students last year.

Several Regents have indicated that Regent Betty Rosa, a former Bronx superintendent, is the frontrunner to replace Tisch. Rosa said she is interested in the position but noted that the final vote will not be taken for two weeks.

“I want to honor the fact that it is my colleagues’ decision,” she said.

Both Rosa and the newly appointed Reyes were endorsed by leaders of the opt-out movement. In a survey submitted to New York State Allies for Public Education, the state’s most prominent opt-out group, Reyes said he supports parents’ right to choose whether or not their children take the state tests.

Mead also voiced some skepticism about state tests and the way changes to the assessments have been introduced. But she supports the Common Core standards and has talked to parents in her own district about the drawbacks of opting out, she said.

“I think it’s important for parents to feel like they can make informed choices,” Mead said.

Mead has been involved in discussions about school diversity in District 3, which has a number of schools starkly divided along race and socioeconomic lines. When asked if she would bring diversity conversations to the state, she said she would first need to discuss it with other Regents. She also said she will have to do more research before commenting on teacher evaluations.