Charter Founder Is Named Education Commissioner

May 17, 2011  |  

(New York Times) — John B. King Jr., who credits teachers for helping him surmount an isolated childhood as an orphan in Brooklyn and who ran celebratedcharter schools in New York and Massachusetts, was named Monday as the state’s next education commissioner, with a unanimous vote of the Board of Regents.  At 36, Dr. King, who previously served as deputy commissioner, will be among the nation’s youngest educational leaders, though he had been the clear front-runner since the current commissioner, David M. Steiner, announced in April that he would resign.  After losing both of his parents to illness by age 12, Dr. King earned an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a law degree from Yale and a doctorate in education from Columbia. In between, he co-founded Roxbury Prep, a top charter middle school in Massachusetts; led Uncommon Schools, a network of charters based in New York; and married and had two daughters.

His drive, he said in an interview on Sunday, comes from a sense of urgency to create for other children the  refuge he  found as a fourth grader at Public School 276 in Canarsie, the year his mother died of heart failure. His teacher that year, Mr. Osterweil, was dynamic and creative, encouraging him to read Shakespeare and memorize the leaders and capital of every country in the world. Later, Celestine DeSaussure, a social studies teacher whom the children called Miss D, made him the sportscaster in a fake Aztec newscast.

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