A member of the state Education Department’s Board of Regents said Commissioner John King has made mistakes in his handling of a contentious public forum and its aftermath, but said the board has no plans to replace him.
In a phone interview with Gannett’s Albany Bureau, Harry Phillips, a Regent from Hartsdale, Westchester County, offered an assessment of King’s handling of the cancellation of four forums hosted by the state Parent Teacher Association, which was spurred by a forum in Poughkeepsie last week that quickly became contentious during a brief public-comment period.
But despite increasing pressure from the state teacher’s union and advocacy groups and two lawmakers calling for King’s ouster, Phillips said a change in leadership is not in the cards.
“The commissioner made a few mistakes and he understands it. The board understands it,” Phillips said. “He’s a good, smart guy, and the Regents are not going to get rid of John King.”
Phillips said King made errors in his handling of the Poughkeepsie forum—particularly when it came to the length of his presentation and response to pre-written questions, which lasted for more than an hour and left little time for public comment. He also said King misused the phrase “special interests” when he said the Poughkeepsie forum was “co-opted.”
“One, (King) should not have spoken so long. He should have left more time for public comments. He shouldn’t have been so sensitive. He misused the word special interest when he meant people from all over the state who came merely just to heckle. Not everyone was there just to heckle, but some people were and I think he got carried away with that.”