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NYS Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is resigning

Karen DeWitt
Mary Ellen Elia watches as NY's Board of Regents votes to elect her the next state education commissioner.

New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is leaving that job at the end of August.

Elia, who was appointed to the post in 2015, released a letter to the NYS Board of Regents on Monday saying that it “has been my great pleasure and honor to serve the students and teachers of New York over the last four years as we work to advance equity and excellence in our education system.”

Elia says she will be leaving for a position with a national firm, supporting districts in their efforts to turn around schools.

Elia has roots in Western New York, and also had started out as a teacher in Erie County.

In her letter to the Regents, Elia says the state education department identified the state’s most challenging schools and districts and developed “case by case” solutions. She talked about the Distinguished Educator who was appointed to help address the academic problems in the Rochester City School District.

Rochester city residents will be able to vote in a non-binding referendum in November about whether they want to see a state takeover of the city school district.

Mayor Lovely Warren has been among those pushing for a major change in the way the city school district is administered, and on Monday she released this statement:

“Commissioner Elia always put the needs of our kids before the wants of adults. I am saddened to hear that that she has resigned. She understood that to address poverty we must fix our schools and dedicated her career to doing so. Her example is one we must continue to follow. Therefore, I call on Chancellor Rosa and the Board of Regents to appoint a new Education Commissioner equally committed to fixing Rochester’s schools. We must not allow the status quo to continue. We must rededicate ourselves to fight for our kids and their future regardless of the cost. That is the best way to honor Commissioner Elia’s career of service. I ask all of our community to join me in doing so.”

The Rochester City School District released this statement:

"The Rochester City School District thanks Commissioner Elia for her service to all students in the State of New York. Her commitment to ensuring students receive a high-quality education is second-to-none. We stand ready to support her during her remaining days as State Education Commissioner and will assist with the Department’s transition to continue the best possible education for all Rochester City School District children."

Chancellor Betty Rosa and the NYS Board of Regents released this statement:

“We thank Commissioner Elia for her tireless and unwavering service to New York State’s children. Over the past four years, the Board and Commissioner Elia have made much progress to improve education for New York’s citizens. Together we have placed an emphasis on educating the whole child and worked to achieve equity in education for all. Commissioner Elia has been steadfast in her commitment to placing the interests of students first. We wish Commissioner Elia the best in her future endeavors.”

NYSUT, the state’s major teacher’s union, had this statement:

“As Commissioner Elia’s tenure comes to a close, we wish her well in her future endeavors. We look forward to engaging with the Board of Regents as the search for the next commissioner begins and ensuring that the voices of hundreds of thousands of educators across New York State are heard throughout the process. We look forward to working closely with the next commissioner to fix the broken state testing system for children in grades 3-8 and on our mission to cultivate the next generation of highly qualified, dedicated educators. Selecting a new commissioner with a deep background in public school classrooms will go a long way toward achieving these critical goals.”

Rochester Board of Education President Van White:

“The institution of education while not perfect in Rochester, has room for growth because collectively we can turn this district around. People should not be worried that oh my god the commissioner has left, any more than they should have when Dr. Aquino left because it has never been my point of view that the results that entitled to are contingent upon one person."

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.
James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.