NY Board of Regents taps its own chancellor to become interim education department commissioner

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, right, and Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, left.
Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, left, sits with former State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, right, during a panel discussion.

New York’s Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa will resign from her post to assume the role of interim commissioner for the state education department, the Board of Regents announced Tuesday.

The Board of Regents tapped the Bronx educator, who has served as chancellor since March 2016, to fill the temporary position that has been hard to staff. Rosa is the department’s third interim commissioner since MaryEllen Elia resigned last August. The Board of Regents originally expected to fill the top job this summer, but has now extended their search for a permanent commissioner through at least October, officials said. In fact, Regent Roger Tilles said it could be “nine months or so” until the job is filled. 

Rosa’s appointment, replacing Interim Commissioner Shannon Tahoe, comes at a time of unprecedented challenges for New York education. Districts with slim budgets are preparing to offer a mix of in-person and virtual learning in the fall amid the lingering coronavirus pandemic. 

Rosa’s role will now shift — from having the power to deny policy proposals, to seeking board approval for them. But she has likely forged some deep relationships with board members as their leader for the past four years. As interim commissioner she will earn an annual salary of $324,000, according to the department. Regents do not earn a stipend.

Rosa told her Regents colleagues at Tuesday’s meeting that her decision to switch roles was “very painful,” but she believed it was the right choice to maintain stability for districts ahead of the fall. 

“Just as it is difficult on a personal level and it’s difficult for our board and it’s difficult for our department, we must find a way to make sure every conversation keeps what’s important at the table,” Rosa said. 

Rosa has served on the Board of Regents since 2008. Before that, she spent a career teaching in the Bronx, rising to become a principal and eventually superintendent of District 8. 

Vice Chancellor T. Andrew Brown said Rosa is a “natural leader” as chancellor, making her the “exact right person” to lead the department right now.

Rosa’s resignation from the board will be effective Thursday. Brown, from Rochester, will serve as acting chancellor. After Rosa’s appointment as interim commissioner is over, she will be eligible to apply to return to the board, according to the state education department. The Regents are tasked with electing a chancellor. Rosa did not say Tuesday whether she would seek to return to the board.

Correction: This story incorrectly stated that the legislature elects the chancellor. The legislature elects people to the Board of Regents; members of the board elect the chancellor.

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