March 2016 Issue
March 29, 2016

New Regents bring vast experience to board

Author: By Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
New Regents, from left, Luis O. Reyes, Elizabeth Smith Hakanson and Nan Eileen Mead.
Caption: New Regents, from left, Luis O. Reyes, Elizabeth Smith Hakanson and Nan Eileen Mead. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

NYSUT praised the selection of three new Regents with significant public education experience who can help end the era of test-and-punish and forge a new path for public education policy that respects the voices of students, parents and educators. The three, selected from more than 50 applicants, were elected by the state Legislature in March.

NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta thanked lawmakers for listening to the concerns of students, parents and educators and taking the time to interview the many applicants, including a number of dedicated NYSUT members who volunteered to serve on the 17-member policymaking board.

"We are encouraged that the three Regents selected appear to have a clear understanding of what works in public education and, more importantly, what doesn't work," Pallotta said.

"There is much work ahead," said NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino, who works closely with the Regents and State Education Department. "The Regents and SED must press forward with the immediate changes parents and educators know are necessary to restore trust and confidence and bring the joy of teaching and learning back to our classrooms."

The new Regents are:

Luis O. Reyes, a lifelong advocate for bilingual education and currently director of education at Hunter College's Center for Puerto Rican Studies, will fill the Regent-at-Large seat vacated by Merryl Tisch. A member of the Professional Staff Congress at CUNY, he spent several decades teaching Spanish and education courses at Lehman, Brooklyn, Baruch and Hunter CUNY campuses.

Reyes served eight years as a New York City Board of Education member and monitored the board's compliance with a 1974 agreement that granted children the legal right to bilingual education. He has also served on the faculty of Long Island University and earned a Ph.D. from Stanford University.

Nan Eileen Mead, a New York City parent activist, will serve for one year to finish out the term of Regent Charles Bendit, who resigned in March. A financial services adviser, Mead has two young children in New York City public schools and has been active in several New York City parent groups. She has a bachelor's degree in politics from New York University.

Elizabeth Smith Hakanson, a retired teacher in Syracuse City schools, will serve the 5th judicial district previously represented by Vice Chancellor Anthony Bottar. Hakanson taught social studies for 32 years at both the high school and middle school levels in Syracuse. Hakanson earned both a bachelor's degree and master's degree from Syracuse University and a certificate of advanced study from SUNY Oswego.