Harold O. Levy

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Harold O. Levy
Harold Thumb.jpg
New York City School Chancellor
In office
Preceded by Rudy Crew
Succeeded by Joel Klein
Personal details
Born (1952-12-14)December 14, 1952 (age 61)
New York City, New York
Nationality United States
Alma mater Cornell University (B.S., J.D.)
Oxford University (M.A.)
Occupation Executive director
School chancellor
Religion Jewish

Harold O. Levy (born 1952) is the executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the largest scholarship foundation in the United States. Having previously held leadership roles as a corporate attorney, venture capital investor and as a manager in the financial services industry, Levy is best-known for having served as Chancellor of the New York City public schools, the largest school system in the U.S., from 2000 to 2002.

Early life and education[edit]

Levy's parents were Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. His father, a former textile merchant in Trier, Germany, owned a hardware store on East 59th Street, and the family lived in the Washington Heights neighborhood. A student leader throughout his education, he graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1970. He earned a B.S in 1974 from Cornell University, an M.A. in Politics, Philosophy and Education in 1978 from Oxford University, and J.D. in 1979 from Cornell Law School.[1]

Wall Street career (1985-2000)[edit]

During the first period of his career, Levy worked on Wall Street providing legal advice to Citigroup, Inc. and its predecessors, Traveler's Group, Inc., Salomon, Inc. and Philipp Brothers, Inc.[2] He was the Associate General Counsel and handled special assignments, including serving as Citigroup's Director of Global Compliance, Salomon Brothers' Senior Litigation Counsel, and serving as liaison to community groups, including Reverend Jesse Jackson's Rainbow / Push Wall Street Project.

During this time, he also began his advocacy for public education, becoming a one-man lobbyist for the public schools. He served as President of University Settlement, New York’s oldest social settlement, located on New York’s Lower East Side. He was also Chair of the City Bar Association’s Committee on Education and pro bono counsel to a number of community organizations. The New York State Legislature elected Levy to be a member of the New York State Board of Regents. Chancellor Ramon Cortines appointed him chair of the New York City Commission on School Facilities and Maintenance Reform; the commission concluded the schools needed billions in new investment,[3] drawing Levy further into the struggle to improve education in New York City.[4]

New York City School Chancellor (2000-2002)[edit]

Levy became New York City School Chancellor in 2000, managing a $13 billion budget. He served for two years and 8 months, including during 9/11. The system is the nation’s largest, at the time serving 1.1 million students. It currently has more than 1,800 schools.[5]

Levy’s tenure as chancellor was marked by significant reform and a number of positive results. The first non-educator to serve in the office, he imposed management accountability metrics; overhauled teacher recruitment; in collaboration with the UFT, the teacher’s union, he ended the practice of hiring teachers on “emergency credentials”; and he started the much-emulated Teaching Fellows program.[6]

Although he is well known for being plain-spoken and blunt, he largely tried to avoid politics and controversial issues when possible in favor of his practical, data-driven reforms. The New York City Board of Education voted 4 to 3 to make Levy interim chancellor, a move opposed by then-mayor Rudy Giuliani. However, Levy’s business-like approach eventually engendered a mutual respect with Giuliani and other skeptics, and he was unanimously voted permanent chancellor after five months on the job.[7]

The subsequent programs he implemented were characteristically student-centered. He instituted the first K-12 student information reporting system, established specialized high schools, and created programs offering students college-level instruction. He also ran for three years what remains the country’s largest summer school with over 300,000 students, which was subsequently recognized to have been among the most cost effective interventions for low performing students.[8] Reading and math scores rose considerably during his time in office, including the largest-ever one-year gain in math scores.[9]

Levy left the office of chancellor in August 2002 after 2 ½ years, overseeing a friendly transition to his successor, Dr. Joel Klein.[10]

Later career (2002-2014)[edit]

Following his departure from the chancellor’s office, Levy continued to promote innovation in education. He became a member of the senior management team of Kaplan, Inc., and subsequently joined its Higher Education Division, which included over 70 for-profit campuses and an online university with over 60,000 students. He founded Kaplan University’s online School of Education, which focused on training special education and math teachers. Levy was a member of the board of Hesser College and Kaplan University.[11]

He was chair of the New York City Commission on School Facilities and Maintenance Reform, whose report resulted in $1 billion in additional capital expenditures for the City’s school buildings. He was also a trustee of Pace University.

In 2010, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan appointed Levy to the Committee on Measures of Student Success.[12] Levy currently serves on several corporate and philanthropic boards, including Cambium Learning Group,[13] MetSchools,[14] and the American College of Greece.[15] Mr. Levy has received numerous awards and honors, was an adjunct professor at Columbia University, and is the author of numerous articles and editorials.[16]

Most recently, Levy was a managing director and education practice head for Palm Ventures, LLC, from 2010 to 2014. The firm invests in businesses with a transformative social impact, including for-profit schools such as Cogswell Polytechnical College and Nightingale College, and education technology businesses such as Producteev, LateNiteLabs, and FIRE Solutions.

Currently, he is a member of College Promise Campaign National Advisory Board, whose mission includes "advocating for free community college, as well as degree and certificate completion for responsible students."[17]

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation[edit]

In August 2014, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation announced that Levy had been named Executive Director effective September 1. Levy leads the Foundation's efforts to support high-performing, low-income students.[18]

The Cooke Foundation is a private, independent foundation dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. Founded in 2000 by the estate of Jack Kent Cooke, the Cooke Foundation has awarded $125 million in scholarships to 1,800 students, and $79 million in grants to organizations that support its mission. It has an endowment with over $700 million as of September 2014.

Since August 2014 Levy has implemented a number of new initiatives, including a partnership with College Board to expand scholarship access;[19] the edX Middle School Challenge;[20] plans for "chatbot" college advising technology as announced at the White House College Opportunity Summit;[21] and scholarship partnerships with prestigious universities in England. In addition the Cooke Foundation co-sponsored the White House College Opportunity Summit in December 2014 alongside Lumina Foundation[22] and hosted the first-ever national convening of selective high school principals in February 2015 to discuss closing the excellence gap in higher education.[23] Levy was also recently appointed to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education board, the regional accreditor located in Boston, Massachusetts.

Personal life[edit]

He currently resides in New York City with his wife, Patricia Sapinsley. They have two children, Noah, an engineering student at Cornell University, and Hannah, a sculptor on fellowship at the Staedelschule in Frankfurt, Germany.[24]



  1. ^ Packer, George (March 11, 2001). See "Schools Chancellor Harold O. Levy: The Suit." New York Times. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  2. ^ Kolker, Robert (2000). See "Harold Levy's Class War." New York Magazine. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  3. ^ Levy, Harold O., et al (1995). See "Report of the Commission on School Facilities and Maintenance Reform."
  4. ^ Kolker, Robert (2000). See "Harold Levy's Class War." New York Magazine. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  5. ^ See New York City Department of Education - About Us. NYC Department of Education. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  6. ^ Goodnough, Abby (2004). See "Ms. Moffett's First Year: Becoming a Teacher In America."
  7. ^ Packer, George (March 11, 2001). See "Schools Chancellor Harold O. Levy: The Suit." New York Times. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  8. ^ Matsudaira, Jordan (2008). "Mandatory Summer School and Student Achievement." "Mandatory Summer School and Student Achievement: A Regression Discontinuity Analysis." Journal of Econometrics, 142(2), 2008: 829-850.
  9. ^ Herszenhorn, David M. (September 25, 2005). See "Math Scores Statewide Show Gains in 4th Grade.", New York Times. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  10. ^ Goodnough, Abby (August 11, 2002). See "Levy Packs Up With a Mix Of Sadness and Euphoria." New York Times. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  11. ^ Goodnough, Abby (April 1, 2003). See "In New Job, Former Schools Chancellor Tackles Teacher Training." New York Times. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  12. ^ U.S. Department of Education (June 2, 2010). See "U.S. Education Secretary Appoints Members and Chair of New Committee on Measures of Student Success." Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  13. ^ Cambium Learning Group, Inc. Board of Directors. See http://www.cambiumlearning.com/investor-relations/corpgovernance/ Retrieved September 4, 2014.
  14. ^ MetSchools, LLC. Board of Directors. See http://www.metschools.com/about-us/executive-team Retrieved September 4, 2014.
  15. ^ American College of Greece Board of Trustees. See http://www.acg.edu/discover-acg/office-of-the-president/the-board-of-trustees Retrieved September 4, 2014.
  16. ^ Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. See "Harold O. Levy, Executive Director." Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  17. ^ Heads Up America (October 1, 2015). See "Learn About Our College Promise Advisory Board" Retrieved October 1, 2015
  18. ^ Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (August 4, 2014). See "Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Announces New Executive Director Harold O. Levy." Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  19. ^ The College Board (January 29, 2015). See "College Board Announces Major Expansion in Access to Scholarships for the Millions of Students Who Take the PSAT/NMSQT." Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  20. ^ Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (January 14, 2015). See "EdX and JKCF Announce Middle School Scholarship Challenge." Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  21. ^ Adams, Caralee (October 15, 2014). See "Virtual Advising Systems Aim to Expand College Access." Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  22. ^ Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (December 9, 2014). See "JKCF Sponsors White House College Opportunity Day of Action." Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  23. ^ Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (March 6, 2015). Highlights from JKCF Principals Convening.  See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yX4WMRtg5zA
  24. ^ Hannah Sapinsley Levy website. See http://hannahslevy.com/bio/

External links[edit]