Chancellor Tisch

Shaking up the New York State Board of Regents

Seven of the 17 Board of Regents seats were up for a vote this year by the New York State Assembly and there are now four new faces on the Board of Regents.

Regents Robert Bennett and James Dawson were ousted.  Each of these men have been on the Board of Regents for over 20 years.

Regents Lester Young, Kathleen Cashin and Roger Tilles were re-elected.  Regent Cashin has listened to concerns expressed by parents regarding Common Core and excessive testing and has been one of the few voices expressing some of these concerns on the Board of Regents so I am glad to see that she has been reappointed. An article from says that two of the Regents re-elected have been critical of the Board’s policies but I do not know if the second Regent referred to is Young or Tilles.

The four new Board of Regents members are:  Judith Chin, Catherine Collins, Judith Johnson and Beverly Ouderkirk.

Judith Chin sounds like a promising advocate for those of us concerned about Common Core.  She also brings a wealth of educational experience and an English Language Learner perspective since she started school not speaking any English (only Chinese).

Here is an article with a little bit of information about Catherine Collins who is from Buffalo.   The article also contains a comment from Assemblyman Peter Lopez who represents a portion of Ulster County

Assemblyman Peter Lopez, a Schoharie County Republican, said many members of the Regents have been “passive observers” during the roll-out of the Common Core standards. “As a body, our Regents have failed us,” he said. “We need leaders, not rubber stamps.”

Judith Johnson brings experience in the schools as well as experience in Washington D.C. to her new position as a Regent.  She will be representing Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties.

Dr. William Cala, superintendent of the Fairport School District, believes that it is not only time for some new Regents on the board but also for a new chancellor to lead the Board of Regents.  He posted the following on facebook on March 16, 2015:

Chancellor Tisch must go. This is the letter I just sent to every “old guard” member of the board of Regents.

Dear Members of the New York State Board of Regents,

Over the past year, it should be apparent that the direction of education in New York is changing. Parents have raised their voices and are no longer willing to blindly accept the state and national agenda of testing and punishment to their children and their children’s teachers. Parents have made it clear that they support their public schools and teachers and will no longer accept a rigid curriculum and testing regime.

Former commissioner King’s management of curriculum, data, parents and the implementation of the common core (as well as the common core itself) surely precipitated his departure. Parents, teachers, school board members and the general populace demanded that the process of appointing members to the Board of Regents by the legislature dramatically change and that the process become more transparent. Those demands were so loud and deafening that the legislature had little choice but to listen. As a result, unprecedented turnover resulted. The most ardent supporter of John King was regent Robert Bennett. Throughout Bennett’s term he has supported positions that have been at cross purposes with the wishes of parents and teachers. Before John King’s departure, Bennett’s praise for his policies were unwavering. In fact, when King resigned, Bennett was quoted as saying “…he is the best educator I have ever met.” Quite curious that when interviewed for reappointment to the Board of Regents recently, the story changed. It became apparent that Mr. Bennett read the tea leaves and knew that support for John King would not secure reappointment. Fortunately the legislators paid attention and knew very well where he stands on the issues and this led to Mr. Bennett’s withdrawal of his application. As you know, this was not the only incumbent who fell.

You all know the history and hopefully you all are aware of the movement for a more responsive government and a board of regents more receptive to the needs and desires of the people of the state of New York. The big question that remains is whether or not the new composition of the board will do “business as usual” or will this board respond to the outcry of parents and teachers. The most effective sign that the Regents are listening and care about the people they serve would be to elect a new chancellor.

Chancellor Tisch has vehemently supported the policies of John King and demonstrated an uncomfortable alliance with the draconian policies of Governor Cuomo. She has been unapologetic, unresponsive and deaf to the public she serves. Her continued leadership of the board will signal defiance of the will of the educational community and an arrogance of unmeasured proportions.

I trust that events of the recent weeks and months will bring a change of heart which subsequently will lead to a change of leadership so desperately needed in New York. Anything less will send a signal that the voices of communities across the state have been ignored.


William C. Cala Ed.D.
Lifetime New York educator and child advocate