SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher was at SUNY Old Westbury on...

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher was at SUNY Old Westbury on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016, as part of a listening tour about TeachNY, a new statewide effort to address the teacher shortage and support educators' professional development. Credit: Howard Schnapp

State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, on part of a listening tour for a campaign to boost the teaching profession, said Friday that she and state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia may be looking at state policy changes as early as next year to help recruit, retain and train teachers.

The governing bodies of the two state education agencies — the SUNY Board of Trustees and the state Board of Regents — would begin looking at policy recommendations as soon as January, Zimpher said in an interview on the campus of SUNY Old Westbury.

“This is all in anticipation of the shortage of teachers, including here on Long Island,” said the chancellor, who is stepping down from her position in June. “The baby boomers are retiring. Not only do we want to meet the demand, we want to make sure these are outstanding teachers, that they are well-prepared, they are well-versed in their content area.”

Zimpher, the leader of the state’s public 64-campus university system, spent the morning listening to local school district officials, classroom teachers and administrators of teacher training programs to get feedback on TeachNY.

The initiative, announced in May, builds on a 144-page report from a SUNY advisory panel. The report listed over 60 recommendations on how to add diversity in recruiting new teachers, train them in the classroom before they start their jobs, invest in continuing professional development and create regional councils to ensure there are enough teachers to meet projected demand.

Long Island was the fourth of seven stops on the statewide listening tour to promote the campaign, a joint effort by SUNY and the state Education Department.

Elia, who was scheduled to speak at the event, canceled late Thursday afternoon, officials said. Jhone M. Ebert, senior deputy commissioner for education policy, represented the department.

One aim of the TeachNY partnership is to increase enrollment in teacher training programs across the state. SUNY Old Westbury has about 410 students in its School of Education, a 40 percent enrollment drop since 2008, when the recession had taken hold and many districts implemented hiring freezes.

The campus is the most racially diverse on Long Island.

“We have to look at producing a more diverse population of teachers, but to produce them you have to draw them, you have to recruit them,” said SUNY Old Westbury’s president, the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, who pointed to the low numbers of black and Latino male teachers. “People don’t have the regard and respect for teaching as they ought to.”

Under TeachNY, Zimpher said the state is focused on keeping up with the future demand.

New York’s need for teachers will grow by 5.8 percent by 2022, or about 1,700 teachers from 2012 to 2022, according to the report. Nationally, the need for teachers will rise by a total of 1.6 million during that time, the report said.

A Newsday analysis in 2014 found that almost one-third of Long Island’s classroom teachers were at or approaching eligible retirement age.

“It’s very critical if we want to make change that we have a stronger partnership between higher education and K-12,” Ebert said. “We have SUNY students who want to become educators. In order to do that effectively and have true experiences, they need to be engaged with the schools around their campus.”

One-quarter of the teachers in the state are trained by SUNY, Zimpher has said.

Oceanside High School research teacher Marla Kilfoyle, a national board-certified teacher with 29 years in the profession, said she is hopeful about the program.

“Teachers want a voice in this partnership,” she said in the open forum of about 75 people. “As far as policy, we need working teachers and student teachers to tell us what really works from inside the classroom.”

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