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On Monday, the state Board of Regents elected long-time educator and public service stalwart Lester Young as its first Black chancellor.
Young, a Brooklyn local, has worked in public service for more than 50 years and served on the board since 2008, Chalkbeat reports. He takes over at a tumultuous time, where schools in the state’s approximately 700 districts are dealing with mixed online and in-person learning, technology and budgets gaps and enrollment decline.
Young confronted the compounding crises the country is facing – the pandemic and racial reckoning – in his acceptance, saying the pandemic had further exposed longstanding inequities.
“We must use our leadership opportunity in this moment to set in 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,” he said.
In the role, Young will build consensus amongst board members and appoint members to work groups and committees that oversee education policymaking in the state. Young currently oversees the committee responsible for policymaking for pre-K-12 education and a group that works to improve outcomes for boys and young men of color.
Young established the state’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, aimed at boosting educational outcomes for young men of color, which was picked up by former President Barack Obama and introduced at the federal level.
Young grew up in Brooklyn and started his career with New York City public schools in 1969, serving as a teacher, guidance counselor, supervisor of special education and principal at Brownsville’s P.S. 183, according to the state education department.
In 1988, he left to become an assistant commissioner at the state-level and returned in 1993 as the superintendent of Brooklyn’s District 13. In 2008 he was appointed to the Board of Regents, while teaching at the Long Island University’s Graduate School of Education.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams was congratulatory of Young, who he called a mentor, and said he was the person to bring about a much needed cultural shift.
Brooklyn Assemblymember Latrice Walker told Kings County Politics Ocean Hill-Brownsville had a rich history of producing “the best and the brightest educators and pupils from international presidents of unions to elected officials to Regents to Chancellors.”
“[Young’s] commitment to education is evident in his dossier, which speaks to not just what Dr. Lester Young has done but also to who Dr. Lester Young is,” she said.
“He has a heart for our children and the education that they receive. I firmly believe that at this time in our education system he has the requisite knowledge and passion that will propel our students to the next levels that are needed in our state.”