Commissioner Mills' letter to the Board of Regents
October 31, 2008
Members of the Board of Regents
New York State Education Department
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12234
I am writing to inform you of my decision to resign as commissioner by the end of June 2009. I will work with the Board to guarantee a solid transition for my successor, and complete the tasks you assigned to me as we prepare the education system for the future.
It has been exhilarating to serve for 13 years as your commissioner. Even the hardest days have a clear purpose and I have never tired of it. I am grateful to the Regents, my colleagues in SED, and thousands of educators, elected leaders and other citizens with whom I have worked.
I appreciate the young people, starting with that first day when I took the oath of office among children in a school in New York City. I accepted the Board’s invitation because of the opportunity to better the lives of children. And academic achievement has improved through our work together.
Our work is about enriching the interaction among student, teacher, and curriculum – which is where the results that matter occur. Commissioners accomplish nothing by acting alone, but with the Regents, State Education Department colleagues, and educators everywhere, we accomplished a lot. In that company, we have set high standards, insisted that all students encounter a Regents quality curriculum, and kept the public focused on both achievement gains, and the unacceptable gaps in achievement that are still evident along lines of race, poverty, and disability.
We campaigned successfully, again with so many others, for a fair Foundation Aid system that drives the greatest increases to the school districts serving the poorest children, and we have built and then renewed an accountability system that protects these public funds. We raised expectations and outcomes for children with disabilities. We transformed teacher education and stopped the practice of putting temporarily licensed teachers before the children in greatest need. We strengthened our stewardship of cultural resources and through the Office of Professions protected the public and the integrity of the licensed professions. We built a P-16 strategy to raise achievement and saw to its implementation in law, budget and practice.
New York, like the rest of the nation, faces difficult times. Experience of more than 40 years in education gives me confidence that we will come though this having taken care of the children. Since early 2006, and especially in the last year, the Regents, our colleagues in the schools and colleges, and we in SED have laid the foundation for improved achievement even during challenging times.
There is so much more to do to educate all to standards that signify readiness for citizenship, work, and continuing education. Yet I have always known that however long the race, it’s still a relay. I must prepare to pass the baton, just as I took over from leaders who came before me. I accepted the Regents call in 1995 with both delight and awe at the enormity of the responsibility. I will leave satisfied that I did my best among the best of companions. Meanwhile, I look forward to several more months of rewarding work on the Board’s agenda.
Richard P. Mills