December 22, 2014

Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch,

NYSED Regents Office

89 Washington Avenue

Albany, NY  12234

Dear Chancellor Tisch,

Please accept this letter on behalf of the Executive Board of the Long Island Council of Administrators and Supervisors, the largest professional organization of school administrators and supervisors on Long Island, regarding the search for a new Commissioner of Education for the State of New York. We know this will be an important appointment that will have lasting effects on the children, parents, students, teachers, and administrators of New York State for many years to come and is a responsibility that you take very seriously.

The next commissioner, like a good teacher or school administrator, must be a gifted leader able to facilitate change and motivate the entire system to help our children realize their full potential and dreams. We urge you to review the recommendations that follow as you work with the search committee.

Candidates for the New York State Commissioner of Education must have a passion for public education and be able to:

  • Collaboratively develop and implement a shared vision and mission for public education in New York State
  • Establish, nurture, and sustain a culture of collaboration, trust, learning, and high expectations with all stakeholder groups in urban, suburban and rural districts
  • Build trust by establishing and sustaining positive relationships with students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and local boards of education
  • Advocate for children, families, teachers, administrators, and boards of education
  • Build strong, supportive and trusting relationships with key professional organizations throughout the state to get them excited about a shared vision and build consensus with their input
  • Establish transparency about how and why decisions were made and how public education stakeholders were meaningfully involved.

We believe the next commissioner must:

  • Possess a successful track record of solid practical experience with multiple years of experience in New York State as a teacher and administrator in a traditional public school setting
  • Have a deep understanding of the K-12 curriculum, be highly knowledgeable of how the system works and how funding is related to program changes
  • Understand and appreciate the “real world” complexities (hiring process, on-going staff development, implementing new curricula and assessments, daily classroom observations, parent conferences, school safety, student discipline, food service, transportation, health services, co-curricular and interscholastic programs) and all other issues involved in educating students throughout the state
  • Be able to comprehend how rapid unfunded systemic changes reduce other important programs, disrupt systems and adversely impact services offered in schools
  • Be a good listener who truly understands the concerns of parents, local boards, teachers and administrators in the field and uses their experiences and successes as models for others
  • Patiently pilot new reforms with input from the field and abandon the current practice of “too much, too soon and too fast”
  • Deemphasize the current excessive focus on testing and data collection

New York’s efforts to raise its educational standards have had mixed results in part because of the top down management style that has pushed experienced and knowledgeable public school practitioners to the side. If we are to continue to move forward and achieve the high standards necessary for our students to get into the best colleges and to become the well-educated work force needed for this new century, we must all work together in that pursuit. We must move away from the “one size fits all” approach and realize that what works in one school may not work in other schools.

We are confident that you and the search committee will succeed in finding the right leader best suited to be commissioner during the critical school years ahead.  We agree that educational reform should continue, albeit at slower pace, and look forward to working with the Board of Regents and the new Commissioner of Education making the Empire State a model for public education.

Respectfully on behalf of the CAS Executive Board,

Anthony C. Laurino

Anthony C. Laurino, President

cc:          Members of the Board of Regents

Senator John J. Flanagan, NYS Education Committee Chair

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, NYS Assembly Education Committee Chair

Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, NYS Assembly Speaker

Senator Dean Skelos, Temporary President and Majority Coalition Leader