Over the last few years when an education leader was selected, i. e., head of NYC schools, or, US Secretary of Education I had to scramble to check them out.
The selection of Lester Young as chancellor of the Board of Regents culminates a lengthy career serving the children of the city and state of New York.
Back in the days of decentralization Dr. Young was the superintendent of District 13, a Brooklyn school district, mostly Afro-American with a corner in Brooklyn Heights. My colleague, Frank Lupo, was the union district rep. Frank and Dr. Young, in the roiling days of decentralization, when superintendents came and went, where school venality was all too common, District 13, lead by Dr. Young was a shining light.
When decentralization moved to mayoral control Lester led a new “experiment,” the city was divided into ten meg-districts, and, a range of services, guidance, attendance, community organizations, etc. worked with, not under, the regional superintendents, a leadership model that required enormous skills. I was working as a consultant in one of the regions and admired his patience and resolve.
The Board of Regents is a policy board, they don’t control dollars. Schools in New York State are funded by local property taxes and state aid. The formula always favored the high tax, aka, the wealthiest districts. In spite of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, in spite of the victory, a pyrrhic victory. Governor Cuomo ignored the courts and the litigants are back in court.
Lester, quietly, persistently, collected legislative allies, the Regents, under Lester’s leadership, created a task force and the legislature funded My Brother’s Keeper; taking an Obama initiative and moving it statewide.(See NYS MBK program here).
Curriculum has always been the responsibility of school districts, with 700 school districts in the state, ranging from hundreds of small rural districts to the Big Five, including New York City, the push and tug between local independence and the role of the State Education Department resulted in constant conflict. Under Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Commissioner David Steiner the state did establish EngageNY, open source curriculum modules, some districts adopted, other ignored.
Two years ago, led by Chancellor Betty Rosa, and Lester as chair of the K-12 Regents Committee, a task force was convened and the Board of Regents moved forward to adopt a Culturally Relevant Sustaining Education framework (See State Ed site here).
In his acceptance speech this morning Lester thanked, first, his wife, and his career mentors, if we’re wise, and, humble, we should know that the ladder is long with many rungs, if we’ve learned properly we know to listen, to respect, to adopt what we can, to continue to learn and to teach.
The Board of Regents made an extraordinary selection. And, be careful on the Harley