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The DOJ delivers the Comey memos to Congress. Also on our rundown: More evidence that rent prices are out of reach in many markets; Wisconsin counties brace for sulfide mining; and the Earth Day focus this weekend in North Dakota is on recycling.

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NY Gets New Education Commissioner: Wants to Close Black/White Gap

October 1, 2009

NEW YORK - Education advocates are voicing their support of New York State's first new education commissioner in 14 years, but urging more accountability and parental involvement. David Steiner, a Harvard PhD., begins work today, and has indicated he'll focus on the achievement gap between black and white students and will support well-run charter schools.

Bill Ritchie, a retired guidance counselor and member of theAlliance for Quality Education, says he would like to see Steiner begin his tenure by taking a statewide listening tour. Too many New York school districts are ruled strictly from the top, says Ritchie, who believes the key to making them better is more community involvement.

"We are welcoming him and want to work very closely with him, and we will support him to the extent that he involves parents, community members, teachers, students to the greatest degree possible."

Ritchie's group will join a hundred others across the state today to ask the new commissioner to adopt the proposed Covenant for a Sound Basic Education.

"The Covenant has four principals: accountability, leadership, enforcement and transparency."

Transparency is of particular importance to Patricia Greenridge, who's son attends public school in Wyandanch. She says parents have a right to ensure teachers are getting their jobs based on merit.

"Some of the board members had family members working in the school district. We thought that wasn't fair to people who apply for positions; we want people who are qualified for our students and not people who are just related."

Three schools in Greenridge's district have been removed from the "need improvement" list, which she attributes to strong parental involvement.

The 51-year-old Steiner comes to the post from Hunter College, where he was dean of the School of Education. He is on record supporting merit pay as well as higher wages for teachers. Steiner succeeds Richard Mills, who retired June 30 after fourteen years as commissioner and becomes New York's thirteenth education commissioner since the post was created in 1904.


Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY