Another nationwide search for a SUNY chancellor has ended with a familiar face for New Yorkers. Former state Education Commissioner Dr. John King Jr. will begin running the SUNY system next month. The position had been filled in an acting capacity following the resignation of Dr. Jim Malatras.

King’s tenure as education commissioner between 2011 and 2015 was a tumultuous one, primarily because he was an advocate of both the Common Core and teacher evaluations which complicated his relationship with both parents and teachers. 

But Dr. Fred Kowal, president of United University Professions (UUP), SUNY’s professional and academic union, is optimistic.

“We welcome the appointment of the chancellor. It’s really necessary to have one in place as we get started on the budget process,” Kowal told Capital Tonight. 

Each December, SUNY announces its budget priorities for the following year, so to Kowal, the timing of King’s appointment, and the fact that he knows New York, are both positives. 

“I think it’s an advantage to have someone in that position who knows New York state politics, who knows SUNY.  Now, whether that is advantageous to us and to our members and students, we are going to wait and see,” said Kowal. “We are going to know very quickly where he is going to take SUNY in the next month or so.”

King called Kowal on Monday to say hello and check in with him.

“We had a good conversation,” Kowal reported. “He understands what the needs of SUNY are.”

Not everyone is as optimistic about King’s appointment as Kowal. State Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt issued a press release Tuesday highly critical of King’s $750,000 per-year annual salary, as well as King’s decision to live part time in the state of Maryland.

“This grossly excessive compensation package is a slap in the face to every hard-working New York family and student who struggle to afford higher education, and the SUNY Board should immediately reconsider what is very clearly a bad deal for New York students and taxpayers,” Ortt wrote.

Kowal told Capital Tonight that compensation for upper-level administrators at large university systems has been sky-high for years, especially when compared to the salaries of academic staff.