change over time

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.


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”