ALBANY, N.Y. May 26, 2015 — New York State United Teachers is encouraged by the appointment of MaryEllen Elia as the state’s new education commissioner, saying her background as a high school teacher and reading specialist, and her deep roots in Western New York, make her a welcome voice in the discussion about how to improve New York’s already strong public education system.
NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said, “It is vitally important for an education commissioner to respect teachers, to trust those working in public education and to listen — truly listen — to those in the field doing the hard work of teaching the state’s students, particularly those who have special needs, are still learning English or live in poverty. This is a challenging time for public education and its educators and there is a lot of hard work ahead. We are encouraged that Commissioner Elia is an educator with decades of experience as both a teacher in New York’s public schools and a superintendent in public education, and that she has strong academic credentials from our State University system.”
Magee added, “We look forward to a collaborative, productive relationship with Commissioner Elia as we tackle, among other issues, how to end the over-reliance on standardized testing and to ensure that New York has a fair and meaningful evaluation system that focuses on professional development and helping teachers to improve. On top of this, we invite Commissioner Elia to join us in fighting for the equitable funding that our public schools need, especially those serving our most vulnerable student populations.”
NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino, the union’s liaison to the Regents, said Elia’s selection makes it clear that members of the Board of Regents placed high value on Elia’s experience as an educator and school leader who has worked toward building consensus.
“Changes in state education policy should be made with teachers, not to them and should always follow quality research and best practice. Buy-in is absolutely essential if New York is to move forward, and we hope that’s a lesson learned. NYSUT remains committed to collaboration and finding pathways to labor-management cooperation,” Fortino said. “We are pleased that members of the Board of Regents appear to be listening to the students, parents and educators who want the emphasis to be on teaching and learning — not testing — as we work together on all the challenging issues that lie ahead.”
New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.