King assumes his new, high level position at the State Education Department officially on October 1st, but he very much as been on the job already, and participated at the monthly meeting of the Board of Regents last week in Albany. He succeeds the former Senior Deputy, Johanna Duncan-Poitier, who is departing for a high-level position at the SUNY central administration (not charter-related). King was chosen for the position by David Steiner, the incoming Commissioner of Education, who was appointed by the Regents last July and also formally assumes office on the 1st. (The Department's announcement of King's appointment is linked here.)
"Brooklyn's John King tapped to lead school reform efforts, says school saved his life" the Daily News headline says. King hasn't just studied or supported reform. He's walked the walk. That's good news for charter schools and good news for New York public education generally.
Just 34 years old, Dr. John B. King, Jr. has a fascinating biography: a graduate of Harvard (magna cum laude) Columbia (M.A., Ed.D) and Yale Law (can anyone be more educated than this?); Brooklyn-born son of public school teachers; orphaned by the age of 12 and having to live with relatives; attended PS 276 in Canarsie and Mark Twain Junior High in Coney Island; became a teacher at a Boston charter school and later co-founded and co-directed Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, just outside of Boston -- one of the best charter schools in the country.
Roxbury Prep has been nationally recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a high-performing, model school whose design has been replicated by charter schools in New York. Knowing this success, after King had departed, I visited this school in 2005 with a group preparing an application for a charter school in New York.
After Roxbury, King returned to his native Brooklyn, and worked for Uncommon Schools, where he was a managing director until his appointment to the Education Department. Uncommon is a non-profit charter management organization operating sixteen high-performing charter schools, including twelve in New York of which nearly all were first approved by SUNY, not the Regents.
King has a big job ahead of him, as he will oversee for the Regents all state education policy dealing with pre-k through high school. Relatively speaking, the charter sector is a small part of his responsibilities, but all charter actions and recommendations going to the Regents must pass through him. In addition, the Education Department offices conducting oversight and monitoring of charter schools are accountable to him.
New York State has a true reformer in an important policy position at the Education Department; not merely someone who studied or embraces reform policies, but who has implemented them successfully in his career.
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