Richard P. Mills

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Richard P. Mills
12th Commissioner of Education of the State of New York
In office
1995–2009
Preceded by Thomas Sobol
Succeeded by David M. Steiner
Personal details
Born (1944-11-28)November 28, 1944
Paris, Illinois
Profession Educator

Richard Paul Mills (born November 28, 1944) is an American educator most notable for having served as the Commissioner of Education for both Vermont and New York States.

Early life and career[edit]

Mills was born in Paris, Illinois to a former teacher and college professor turned insurance salesman.[1]

He earned a bachelor's degree in History at Middlebury College in 1966 and a master's degree in American History at Columbia University in 1967. He began his career as a history teacher at the Dalton School in New York City and helped found the Elizabeth Seeger School in 1971. He pursued an MBA at Columbia Business School, graduating in 1975, and an Ed.D. at Teachers College, Columbia University in 1977.

He moved to work for the New Jersey Department of Education in the mid-1970s where he held various administrative posts. Governor Thomas H. Kean picked him to serve as special assistant on education in 1984. In 1988, Governor Madeleine M. Kunin selected him to serve as Commissioner of Education for Vermont.[1]

Years as New York Commissioner of Education[edit]

In 1995, the Board of Regents appointed him Commissioner of Education for New York State.[2]

Initiatives and State results[edit]

Including his calls for high standards.[3] Since 1995 Mills has taken many unprecedented steps including the end of local school boards of education autonomy to grant diplomas through the new mandary Regents Diploma

His calls for increased education spending, doubling the amount spend on schools in NY since 1995 with NY now ranked second nationally in educational spending,[4] with the latest spending not accounted for it is expected NY will now be first in per pupil spending.

Despite this spending NY's graduation rate is 58%, according to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation the third worst in the nation behind only South Carolina at 54%, and Georgia at 56%. Neighboring Pennsylvania garners 81%.[5]

Roosevelt School takeover[edit]

Most troubling is that for the first time the commissioner removed an elected school board for overspending $1.9 million.[6] and having low test scores.

In the aftermath of that takeover in 2002 Mills appointed the new superintendent and board of education yet the academic numbers have steadily worsened along with enrollment. Yet in 2007 a state audit now found the school had overspent $12 million.[7]

After the state brought in report cards six months late, the state refuses to publish the data for Roosevelt Schools. It is the only time the state has refused to publish a report card, even though the district is under direct state control.[8]

"Jacqueline Farquharson, a senior at Roosevelt High School, said at the forum that her teachers did not have enough textbooks for all their students and that the school computer lab did not have enough toner to print student papers. 'I have three siblings in this district,' she said. 'I want to know that my school district is not going to fall through the cracks.' "

"Mills acknowledged that a May 2006 audit by the State Education Department had flagged 63 weaknesses in the district's financial controls. 'I knew then there had to be a problem with the deficit,' he said, 'but at that time I couldn't tell how large the deficit was.' "

Contacts with Public Education[edit]

Mills has also drawn calls of hypocrisy: despite his leadership of the NY State Education Department, Mills has never taught in a public school, never been a principal or superintendent in a public school, nor even attended a public school. His only teaching experience comes from the exclusive, private Dalton School.

Under Mills' tenure, a series of scandals happened with multiple school districts on Long Island, including contractor lawyers who were being listed as full-time employees by multiple school districts and claiming lucrative public pensions and benefits. He was also criticized for the rampant "double dipping" practice by school district officials, especially on Long Island. At the top of the list was Mr. James Hunderfund, interim superintendent of Malverne, who was entitled to an annual payment of $516,245 in 2008. Each year, Mr. Mills' department granted one third of all of the waivers of New York states to "double dippers", people who collects full public pensions and earn more than $30,000 a year. Many times, top level of school district officials are rehired as top level school district officials, even before they are officially retired.[9]

Retirement[edit]

Mills recently announced he has prostate cancer.[10]

Recent calls by New York State Senate members have been so far unaddressed by Mills.[11]

On October 31, 2008, Mills announced he would leave his post in June 2009.[12]

Government offices
Preceded by
Stephen S. Kaagan
Vermont State Commissioner of Education
1988–1995
Succeeded by
Douglas Walker
(Acting)
Preceded by
Thomas Sobol
New York State Commissioner of Education
1995–2009
Succeeded by
David M. Steiner
Preceded by
Thomas Sobol
President of the University of the State of New York
1995–2009
Succeeded by
David M. Steiner

References[edit]