City’s former special education CEO hired for Cuomo education post

The former chief of New York City’s special education office has been named Governor Andrew Cuomo’s assistant education secretary, his office announced Tuesday.

Johannah Chase spent about seven months as chief executive officer of the city education department’s special-education office last year before stepping down in September. She then worked as a consultant at Bank Street College of Education, which is headed by another former education department official, Shael Polakow-Suransky. Before that, she held various leadership roles in the department over several years.

Chase enters the Cuomo administration as it battles liberal state lawmakers and the teachers unions over his aggressive education policy plans, which include weighing test scores more heavily in teacher evaluations and raising the number of charter schools allowed in the state.

Chase joins three other Cuomo education officials who were appointed in November, including Paola Therasse, who previously worked as a special-education teacher in the Bronx. The governor’s office did not immediately respond to questions about Chase’s new role.

Chase helped launch the city’s special-education overhaul, a set of new enrollment and instructional policies meant to better integrate students with disabilities with their non-disabled peers, and helped set up the department’s special-education office. But advocates last year questioned her qualifications, pointing out that she had only taught for three years and never in classrooms specifically for students with disabilities.

The governor announced Chase’s hiring Tuesday along with several other appointments in different parts of his administration.

“These men and women bring substantial knowledge and expertise to their new roles in our administration,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I am proud to have them on board as we continue our work to make this state stronger, safer and more fair for all New Yorkers.”