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November 5, 2019
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JP O'Hare

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Board of Regents Appoints Shannon Tahoe as Acting Commissioner of Education

Board Announces Leadership Appointments

The Board of Regents today appointed Shannon Tahoe as Acting Commissioner of Education effective Nov. 16 and announced additional appointments to leadership positions. The appointees will assist the Board of Regents and Department in carrying out its mission to raise the knowledge, skill and opportunity of all the people in New York.

“The State Education Department is in a time of transition and with transition comes opportunity,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said. “We have taken this opportunity to find the best and brightest to continue our goal of providing equity and a high-quality education for all students. The Board is fortunate to have both new and familiar faces to lead the Department. Shannon brings vast expertise in education matters and experience in leadership that will serve the Board and Department well in her new role as Acting Commissioner while the Board identifies an interim candidate to lead the Department.”

“It is an honor to work with the remarkable staff of the State Education Department each day; they are truly the best and the brightest and I am consistently in awe of their commitment to serving all New Yorkers,” Vice Chancellor T. Andrew Brown said. “I am thrilled that these talented public servants will work to build on our progress and continue to move the Department forward on behalf of the children and adults we serve.” 

Shannon Tahoe was appointed Acting Commissioner of Education and President of the University of the State of New York effective Nov. 16. Since September 2006, Ms. Tahoe has served in various capacities in this Department, including Deputy Counsel and Assistant Counsel for Legislation.  In October 2019, she was appointed Acting Counsel and Deputy Commissioner for Legal Affairs. This appointment will continue to remain in effect along with her appointment as Acting Commissioner of Education and President of the University of the State of New York.  Ms. Tahoe has consistently provided sound legal advice and counsel to the Board of Regents, Commissioner and Department staff on critical policy matters and key initiatives. She is intimately familiar with all aspects of the work of the Department, having managed the day-to-day operations of the Office of Counsel as Deputy Counsel and now Acting Counsel. During her tenure, Ms. Tahoe has also assisted with the successful management of a broad array of critical Departmental functions and responsibilities, including those of the Department’s Office of Management Services, Office of the Professions, Office of Adult Career and Continuing Education Services, Office of Cultural Education, Office of Performance and Improvement and Management Services, Office of the Chief Financial Officer, and the Department’s Chief Privacy Officer, as well as the Offices of Communications, Human Resources, Education Finance, and Governmental Relations. Ms. Tahoe holds a Juris Doctorate degree from Syracuse University and Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Rochester.

John D’Agati will serve as Senior Deputy Commissioner for Education Policy. Dr. D’Agati brings more than 20 years of experience in higher education, most recently as the Deputy Commissioner for Higher Education at the Department for eight years. Prior to that, Dr. D’Agati served in positions at Empire State College, the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the University of Albany and the State Senate Higher Education Committee. Dr. D’Agati holds a Doctor of Philosophy and a Master’s in Public Administration for SUNY Albany and a bachelor’s degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Dr. D’Agati starts in his new role on Nov. 6.

Elisa Alvarez will serve as the Associate Commissioner for the Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages. Ms. Alvarez has worked in education for more than 27 years, most recently holding the position of Executive Director of Differentiated Learning in the New York City Department of Education’s Multilingual Learners Central Office. In her time at NYCDOE, Ms. Alvarez has held several leadership positions including serving as District 7 Community Superintendent, Middle School Principal for ten years and has extensive experience working with English language learners and students with disabilities. Ms. Alvarez is currently pursuing her doctorate from St. John’s University and as well holds a Master’s in Science degree for School Administration & Supervision from Touro College, a Master’s in Science degree for Special Education-Bilingual from Hunter College and a bachelor’s degree from Lehman College. She will start her new role in late November. 

Jason Harmon will serve as Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Accountability. Mr. Harmon has nearly 15 years of experience in the field of education and school improvement, most recently as the Chief, Bureau of School Improvement most recently as the Chief, Bureau of School Improvement in the Department’s Office of Accountability’s ESSA-Funded Programs unit. Mr. Harmon has been with the Department since 2013, where he began his career at SED as an Associate in Educational Improvement Services in the Office of Accountability. Prior to coming to the Department, he worked at the Greater Southern Tier BOCES. Mr. Harmon holds a Master of Science in Education from Elmira College. He will start in his role Nov. 6.

Lesli Myers-Small was appointed Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Innovation and School Reform. Dr. Myers-Small has nearly 30 years of experience in education and currently serves as the Superintendent of Brockport Central School. Prior to that, Dr. Myers-Small served as the Assistant Superintendent of Student Services in Ithaca City School District and held positions at the Greece Central School District and the Rochester City School District. Dr. Myers-Small holds a Doctorate in Education, Executive Leadership and a Master of Science, Education Administration from Saint John Fisher College. Dr. Myers-Small will begin her new role Jan. 6.