Lewiston native Elia appointed state's new education commissioner

May 26, 2015

Niagara County native and former Sweet Home teacher MaryEllen Elia is now New York's education commissioner-elect. Elia was unanimously approved by the Board of Regents on Wednesday.

MaryEllen Elia named as new NYSED Commissioner
Credit WBFO News photo by Karen DeWitt

Elia, who will replace John King, will move back to the state after spending the past ten years as superintendent of schools in Hillsborough County, Florida.

Elia, 66, was born, raised, and attended school in Western New York. After graduating high school from Stella Niagara in Lewiston, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Daeman College in Buffalo, a Master of Education from the University of Buffalo, and a Master of Professional Studies from SUNY Buffalo.

In 1970, Elia became a social studies teacher in the Sweet Home Central School District. For the next 16 years, she taught a number of history, government, and economics courses to students in grades nine through 12.

When asked about Common Core on Tuesday, Elia expressed her support for raising standards but added that teachers and others in the field need help for that to be successful.

"We need to provide a lot of support for our teachers and our school staff to be able to support students in their success with the new standards," Elia said.

In spite of being named this year's Florida Superintendent of the Year, she was dismissed controversially by the school board earlier this year. The Regents say her record of reform and communication speaks for itself.

"She impressed us with her candor, her honesty [and] her forthrightness," said Vice Chancellor Anthony Bottar on Tuesday. "When we asked her questions it was clear to us that she was a listener, and that was something that we placed very high on our list of attributes that we want in our next commissioner."

King left his post at the end of last year to take a job with the U.S. Department of Education.

Elia will officially begin her new position on July 6.