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Former school teacher Susan Mittler favored to join Board of Regents, replacing James Tallon

Chancellor Betty Rosa, center, at a past Board of Regents meeting.
Chancellor Betty Rosa, center, at a past Board of Regents meeting.
Monica Disare

Susan Mittler, a former teacher from Ithaca, is the Assembly’s pick to replace James Tallon on the New York state Board of Regents, according to Assembly spokesman Michael Whyland.

Mittler is not only a former educator, she is also a union leader, according to NYSUT spokesman Carl Korn. She was elected to nine two-year terms as president of the Ithaca Teachers Association, Korn said.

“Given her experience and dedication to public education, we strongly believe she will add an important voice and perspective to the Board of Regents,” Korn said.

Her appointment, which will be decided in a joint legislative session, would continue a trend of appointing former educators to board positions. Two years ago, three of the four new members were former superintendents. Last year, legislators asked candidates during interviews if they had experience in front of a classroom. Their three selections included a former teacher from Syracuse and an academic with a background in Spanish teaching.

Mittler would replace James Tallon, who represented the sixth judicial district in upstate New York. Tallon, a former Assembly member, has a background in healthcare policy. On the Board, he showed a knack for budgetary matters and spearheaded the Regents’ state aid proposals each year.

During her confirmation hearing, Mittler signaled an interest in many positions the union has supported. She spoke about teacher preparation, “more authentic” assessments, and making sure teaching is seen as a desirable profession.

She addressed the need to help each student find his or her own path. “Not everybody will get a Regents diploma,” she said “Not everybody is ready to go, or wants to go, to college, or can afford college.”

She also expressed skepticism about learning standards.

“When you have a fixed curriculum and a standard that’s set,” Mittler said, “you are not meeting the needs of the individual children.”

Her concerns about standards are in line with a statewide movement away from Common Core standards and what critics argue is an overemphasis on testing. But it marks a big shift from the priorities of the Board of Regents a couple years ago, when the state implemented a set of Common Core standards, supported test-based teacher evaluations and ratcheted up graduation requirements.

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