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Interim state education commissioner stepping down in November

Beth Berlin has served as acting commissioner twice,

Beth Berlin has served as acting commissioner twice, including during the first six months of 2015 after then-Commissioner John B. King Jr. left. Credit: Hans Pennink

Interim State Education Commissioner Beth Berlin, who was named acting schools chief in July after MaryEllen Elia announced she was stepping down, is leaving the post Nov. 15, officials announced Friday.

Berlin, who took over as acting commissioner Sept. 1, "will leave her role for a new opportunity next month," read a statement released from state Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and Vice Chancellor T. Andrew Brown. Berlin had served in the department's top ranks for six years. 

"Through Ms. Berlin’s leadership, the department has excelled in a number of areas and the Board of Regents appreciates Ms. Berlin’s steady hand, calm manner and thoughtful counsel that she provided day in and day out," the statement read. 

It did not identify a successor to Berlin, but rather said, "As leaders of the Board of Regents, we will continue to take a more active role in the activities of the department during this time of transition, and the work of the department will continue as usual."

The statement said an acting commissioner will be named before Berlin's departure and a search firm will be hired to identify candidates.

Berlin, 49, served as acting commissioner once before, during the first six months of 2015 after then-Commissioner John B. King Jr. left for the U.S. Education Department and before Elia was hired. Elia, who had led the department since July 2015 and was the first woman in the position, announced her resignation in July.

Elia, who made $304,000 per year, left Aug. 31. In September, she was named a senior fellow at the International Center for Leadership in Education in upstate Rexford.

Roger Tilles, who represents Long Island on the Board of Regents, said Friday he was not surprised Berlin was leaving, as the position was expected to be a limited interim role. In addition, he said Berlin "is working about four jobs in the department and was really overwhelmed."

"We knew it was going to be short, and she did a terrific job," Tilles said.

Berlin’s salary when she was tapped was $199,161 annually, and education officials said at the time it would remain that amount during her interim tenure.

Tilles said it could be six months to a year before a permanent commissioner is named.

New York State United Teachers Executive Vice President Jolene T. DiBrango said in a statement that Berlin "has always has shown a willingness to work collaboratively with New York’s teachers to help further education across New York State. While we will miss the opportunity to continue our work together, we wish her well on the next stop in her career."

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