The Board of Regents of the New York State Education has unanimously elected Dr. Lester Young, Jr as its next Chancellor.
The Board of Regents is responsible for the creation and promulgation policies which govern all educational agencies in the state. In addition, it provides guidance to and supervision of those agencies.
A lifelong educator who has worked as a classroom teacher, guidance counselor, principal, associate commissioner, community superintendent, and college lecturer, Dr. Young possesses the experience and temperament that are needed to provide governance leadership to public education in New York. As the New York State Education seeks to fill the Commissioner’s position, having a strong and experienced educator as Chancellor is of critical importance.
A Life Member of NABSE, Dr. Young is the first African American to be elected to the position of Chancellor in the 237-year history of the Department. In his position of Chancellor, Dr. Young, as the chief governance officer, chairs the Board of Regents, and will work closely with the Commissioner in developing policies for the state.
The National Alliance of Black School Educators congratulates Dr. Young on his election and wishes him the best as he undertakes this important assignment.
Chancellor-elect Young’s acceptance speech follows below.
Chancellor-Elect Young Remarks
Board of Regents Meeting Jan. 11, 2021
I would like to thank my colleagues on the Board for your vote of confidence and for your more than generous remarks.
I would also like to recognize & thank Vice-Chancellor Andrew Brown for his willingness to accept this additional leadership responsibility by serving as our presiding officer as well as for his friendship.
In 2008 I came to this Board recognizing that I would occupy the very seat originally held by the late Dr. Kenneth B. Clark and later Vice-Chancellor Emerita Adelaide L. Sanford, and, as you can imagine, I came prepared to accept the enormous obligation and humbling honor to join my colleagues in service on behalf of all New York State’s students and their families and, more specifically, to use this opportunity to address the existing disparities experienced by our most vulnerable student populations, and the majority happen to be Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous and poor.
I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Board, Interim Commissioner Rosa, the entire State Education Department team, all New York State educators, the Legislature, the Executive and, in particular, our families as we work to build more equitable and empowering futures for all NYS students.
Colleagues, we are in an incredible moral moment, and in this moment, we must use our leadership opportunity to set into motion the policies and practices that will enable the over 700 New York State School Districts to rethink school and schooling in ways that will transform learning opportunities for all students, teachers and school leaders alike?
However, as we consider our future, we will face many challenges.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended school systems around the world. Within our own State, the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 has further exposed long-standing educational inequities – particularly impacting our most vulnerable. Moreover, the convergence of this pandemic with the brutal and senseless killing of Black men and women, occurring and observed in real-time, has resulted in considerable attention on the reality of racism generally and anti-Black racism more specifically.
Also, the events of last week, in our nation’s capital, indicate that there are those who will use this moment to advance inequality, nationalism, and division. Additionally, when we consider our public education systems, we see that many of our current structures and practices are grounded in 20th-century thinking and knowledge that have resulted in a “one-size fits all” system. At the same time, many of our judgments about the potential of our children, youth, and families are the results of deep-seated cultural, differentially abled, economic, ethnic, language, and racial preconceptions.
The People’s Poet Laureate, Maya Angelou, reminds us to: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, you must do better.” Colleagues, I would submit that we know better. We now know more about human development and learning; and, at the same time, we know that our society and economy require more demanding skills and behaviors necessary for full participation. Simply stated, we all must do better.
We must move beyond the rhetoric of our commitment to education equity, and use the crisis caused by this pandemic to rethink our systems of education. The question is: Can we channel what we know works to transform what has not worked for children, youth, and families in New York State? Our collective response requires an approach that is comprehensive, developmental, and coherent. We must also include the perspectives that support and build the self-esteem and identity of the very students who have been historically under-supported in our society and in schools.
We don’t need a “new normal,” we need a new possible.
I assure you that I am not naïve; I recognize that the unpredictability of the current landscape has been both intense and stressful, particularly as districts, schools and families have had to implement remote learning overnight, plan whether and how to reopen schools amid changing pandemic conditions, and support students academically and across the full range of developmental pathways. The scope of our challenge will not be easy. Here again, the words of Maya Angelou provide a fitting description: "We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
Colleagues, the metamorphosis is not easily accomplished nor is it pretty to look at, but the vision of what is possible is absolutely worth every effort.
I look forward to working with you as we build a new possibility for all New York State students.