District superintendents, the chief executive officers of individual Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), will play a central role as schools begin to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to former State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.

What You Need To Know

  • Former State Ed Commissioner MaryEllen Elia says with school re-opening plans in flux, SED will need to rely on district superintendents

  • Elia is now a senior fellow at the International Center for Leadership in Education

  • She says Governor Cuomo’s decision to divide the state into regions will help school districts tailor reopening plans

“State Ed is going to have to use the expertise of the district superintendents who are, really at this time, a godsend for State Ed, and an extension of the work that needs to be done,” Elia told Spectrum News.   

Elia, who left State Ed in September of 2019, is now a senior fellow at the International Center for Leadership in Education, a division of learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

When asked whether State Ed is well-positioned to help school districts manage a complicated re-opening during the pandemic, she said, “This is a very challenging time for all states across the country. And I, because I was at State Ed as a commissioner, I know the difficulties that New York is facing and I also know the quality of great people there as well as in the educators across the state, in all of our districts.”

Elia believes that because Governor Andrew Cuomo has taken a regional approach to reopening the state economically, that district superintendents, who also serve regionally, will play a key role. 

“New York has the benefit of district superintendents. They are critical, especially since the governor has been purposeful in the way he’s re-jiggered peoples’ thinking about regions,” Elia explained. “He’s been controlling that, and we now see it’s absolutely critical.”

Elia also believes that the governor’s steady hand during the pandemic will attract some of the best candidates in the nation to apply for her old job.

The state education commissioner’s position has been open since September 2019. It was first filled by former Executive Deputy Commissioner Beth Berlin, and then Shannon Tahoe, who had served as SED’s counsel.