New state schools chief has learning legacy

John B. King Jr. grew up among a family of educators in Brooklyn, including his father, who was the
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John B. King Jr. grew up among a family of educators in Brooklyn, including his father, who was the first black vice chancellor for the New York City Department of Education.

Now, the younger King will become the first black person to lead New York state’s schools following his appointment Monday by the Board of Regents as its 14th education commissioner. He replaces David Steiner, who is leaving in June to return to his previous position of dean of the School of Education at Hunter College.

King has been senior deputy commissioner for education for the last two years, in charge of implementing the state’s education reforms associated with the Race To the Top program, including new curriculum and teacher and principal evaluation systems.

Chancellor Merryl Tisch said King, who was educated in Brooklyn schools, is a success story for public education and a great leader.

“He gives voice to every young person in this state who sits in an overcrowded, underfunded, underprivileged classroom. He articulates a vision in education,” she said. “His leadership is what public education really should be.”

King has worked in education his entire life. Before coming to the department, he was managing director for Uncommon Schools, a charter management organization that operates urban schools. Before that, he was co-founder and co-director for curriculum and instruction at Roxbury Preparatory Charter School. He has also taught high school history in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Boston.

In his brief remarks, King thanked the board for placing its trust in him and said he wanted to honor his late mother and father. King now lives in Slingerlands with his wife, Melissa, and two daughters, ages 7 and 4.

“My career has been about trying to honor the legacy of my parents and the teachers that kept me on the right path when I could have easily gone down the wrong path,” King said.

King will start June 15 and earn $212,500 annually. State officials said he requested to take a 15-percent cut from the current $250,000 salary. As commissioner, he will also serve as president of the University of the State of New York.

King earned a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University, a master’s degree in the Teaching of Social Studies at Columbia University, a degree from Yale Law School and a doctorate in educational administrative practice from Columbia University.

King takes over during a particularly challenging and busy time for the department, which Trustee James Dawson said a major reason why the board committee did not want to look outside for its search. The Education Department has seen a lot of turnover among the top positions and was hit with a 10-percent budget cut from the governor and needed to cut $2.9 million in personnel expenses through early retirements, attrition and layoffs.

Steiner announced his resignation April 7.

The state is in the middle of creating new curriculum and teacher and principal evaluation systems, both of which the Board of Regents discussed Monday. The teacher and principal evaluation system was approved Monday.

The new evaluation system is part of a reform package developed by the state as part of its successful Race to the Top application for $700 million in federal funding. The new system rates teachers as either ineffective, developing, effective or highly effective. Twenty percent of the evaluation is based on state tests, another 20 percent on assessments developed locally and 60 percent on other models besides state tests.

King also said work to create lesson plans that reflect the new Common Core standards is progressing. New York has signed on with other states to develop criteria of what every student should know by the time they graduate high school.

Categories: Schenectady County

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