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Schools Chancellor Levy Speaks to Trustees

On May 11, at the General Meeting of the Board of Trustees, the then Interim Chancellor of the New York City Public Schools, Harold O. Levy, spoke to the Board about the priorities of his tenure, which are "get the summer school program working, get superintendents properly evaluated, and third, teacher recruitment."

President Levine introduced Levy by saying: "We are very fortunate to have Acting Chancellor Levy with us and I hope to see him back here as Chancellor."

Prior to being appointed, Levy was Director of Global Compliance for Citigroup Inc., and a New York State Regent. Levy spent most of his fifteen-minute briefing on what he called his most pressing issue, teacher recruitment.

"I don't have a silver bullet," Levy said, in discussing how to solve the problem of recruiting more and better teachers. "But what I do know," he added, "is that the quality of the people in the classroom is critical. And on that I will take no prisoners."

"As I sit here today," Levy said, "I have 78,000 teachers, 11,000 of whom have no certification to teach. We have all those standards and yet we will take anyone who walks in off the street."

"I can't tell you how many classrooms I've been in where the level of erudition in front of the room is not clearly superior to the level in the rest of the room. That is worrisome-because if they can't teach and can't read themselves, they can't teach reading to the kids," said Levy.

Levy sees teacher salaries as critical. He said, "The reason why we're not getting enough certified teachers is that we're not paying enough. The reason why New York City cannot get enough certified teachers and the rest of the state can, is because New York City underpays compared to the rest of the state. The reason why we have 97 SURR schools (Schools Under Registration Review) in New York City is because that's where the concentration of the uncertified teachers is. You get what you pay for."

So where are we going to find the teachers for the system? Levy said, "In our society the people who are going to come forward and work in urban education are the altruists. It is our job to find them. Today, the calling is urban education."

He concluded his remarks by saying, "I must tell you, and I emphasize this, we have a large number of fabulous teachers working in our system."

On May 13, The New York Times reported, "Four months after the Board of Education began its nationwide search for a new schools chancellor, the incumbent's [Levy] last two competitors dropped out, just before they were to be interviewed by the Board." As the Times wrote, "And then there was one, and his name is Harold O. Levy."

It looks as though President Levine will have the opportunity to officially invite Levy to TC as the new permanent Chancellor.

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