Harold O. Levy, Modern New York Metropolis Colleges Chief, Dies at 65

Harold O. Levy, Modern New York Metropolis Colleges Chief, Dies at 65

Harold O. Levy at Public Faculty 189 in Washington Heights, his frail school, on his first day as intervening time colleges chancellor in 2000.CreditCreditLibrado Romero/The New York Times

Harold O. Levy, who because the chancellor of New York Metropolis’s extensive public school system from 2000 to 2002 waged war on its bureaucracy, created in actuality ultimate high colleges and attracted thousands of unique lecturers by insisting on increased initiating wages, died on Tuesday at his dwelling in Extensive apple. He modified into as soon as 65.

His primary other, Pat Sapinsley, acknowledged the region off modified into as soon as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, regularly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Mr. Levy had in recent years been executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the nation’s most interesting scholarship basis.

The son of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, Mr. Levy grew up in New York Metropolis, attended its public colleges and grew to turn into a Wall Boulevard authorized skilled who immersed himself privately for years in teach and metropolis education points. While he had no abilities as an educator, he had headed a 1995 metropolis payment that castigated the metropolis over shoddy school stipulations, and as a member of the New York Board of Regents he sought extra teach funding for metropolis colleges.

Appointed on an intervening time basis by the Board of Training in January 2000, explicitly in opposition to the needs of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Levy, a diminutive, spirited man who arrived at his unique role of job in a pinstriped suit carrying a pillow embroidered with “No Fair Deed Goes Unpunished,” confronted daunting challenges directing the nation’s most interesting public school system.

It modified into as soon as a behemoth with 1.1 million college students, Eighty four p.c of them from minority groups; Seventy eight,000 lecturers whose contracts had been expiring and whose ranks confronted heavy retirement losses; an aging infrastructure of 1,a hundred forty 5 colleges, most of them overcrowded and decrepit, and a $Thirteen billion funds that experts known as inadequate.

Mr. Levy, a Citigroup executive unknown to the public and even to many elected officers, modified into as soon as a progressive Democrat and had the enhance of Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Lecturers, and some editorial commentators, alongside side Bob Herbert of The New York Times, who known as him “a dedicated and gifted man.”

In a single day, Mr. Levy grew to turn into one in every of the metropolis’s most viewed figures, a properly to do man who did now not want the townhouse that went with the job and whose youngsters attended a non-public school. His preference, which required a waiver from the teach education commissioner for a noneducator to qualify, region off off a howl from conservative politicians, who known as him a rich liberal indulging his social sense of right and wrong.

But Mr. Levy, an admirer of poetry and of Sir Thomas More, whose chancellorship under King Henry VIII would possibly well possibly per chance merely had been the final thankless job, plunged into his unique location with optimism, worried humor and the frenzied tempo of a vitality broker desirous to shake issues up. “I do know the system can invent,” Mr. Levy advised a records conference. “So it’s going to. Simple as that.”

Mr. Levy’s preserve-payment skill and zeal for education soon obtained a following. Editorials entreated the board to retain him and to discontinuance wanting for a eternal replacement for the frail chancellor, Rudy Crew, who had been ousted after combating with Mr. Giuliani over school vouchers. Mr. Giuliani lastly endorsed Mr. Levy, who grew to turn into the eternal chancellor after four months on the job.

An early task modified into as soon as to put collectively basically the most interesting summer season school in metropolis historical previous for 300,000 failing college students; they had been required to help the courses under a brand unique coverage that ended computerized promotion to the next grade. Past anybody’s reckoning, his summer season school largely succeeded, with U.F.T. encourage in recruiting 17,000 lecturers for the duty. The metropolis’s summer season school is quiet basically the most interesting within the nation.

In his first year, Mr. Levy created his signature program — New York Metropolis Instructing Fellows, a native model of Deliver for The united states. In its first two years, it recruited some 1,500 of us from other professions, many of them African-American or Hispanic, to preserve atomize purposes and educate or mentor in metropolis colleges in substitute for tuition for a grasp’s stage leading to teacher certification.

With a businesslike skill that emphasised accountability, effectivity and group, Mr. Levy instituted a chain of reforms. He slashed a host of guidelines and converted a preference of failing colleges to non-public management. He instituted the metropolis’s first K-12 student-records system. And he created purposes offering college-level instruction.

Mr. Levy additionally opened three unique in actuality ultimate colleges: the High Faculty of Arithmetic, Science and Engineering at Metropolis Faculty; the High Faculty of American Reviews at Lehman Faculty within the Bronx, and the High Faculty for Sciences at York Faculty in Queens. The universities opened doorways for thousands of minority college students who would possibly well possibly per chance merely now now not occupy in every other case had accept admission to to in actuality ultimate education.

In 2002, the U.F.T. obtained a brand unique metropolis contract, which raised entry-level lecturers’ salaries sharply, to $39,000 from $31,900, and created an different accept of certification that required some distance less coaching. Which skill that, thousands who would possibly well possibly per chance never occupy regarded as instructing in New York Metropolis — of us honest out of college or older of us brooding about a profession swap — applied for jobs.

While Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the lecturers’ union would possibly well possibly per chance issue credit ranking for negotiating the contract, Mr. Levy acknowledged it modified into as soon as he who had “insisted that now we occupy $39,000 and now now not a penny less.”

After years struggling to recruit adequate certified lecturers to occupy even half of its be taught room vacancies, the metropolis hired a bounty of eight,300 candidates. Many current hard-to-occupy positions in shy colleges.

In August 2002, Mayor Bloomberg, who had campaigned on a announce to preserve preserve watch over of the college system, named Joel Klein to be triumphant Mr. Levy. In an editorial, The Times likened the college system to “a huge frail battleship,” and hailed Mr. Levy for steerage it “nearer to the honest direction.”

Harold Oscar Levy modified into as soon as born in Extensive apple on Dec. 14, 1952, to Hugo and Alice Levy. His father had been a textile merchant in Nazi Germany. After his folks escaped, his father owned a hardware retailer in New York. Harold grew up within the Washington Heights a part of Extensive apple.

He graduated from the Bronx High Faculty of Science in 1970, earned a bachelor of science stage from Cornell College in 1974, a grasp’s stage in politics, philosophy and economics from Oxford College in 1978, and a juris doctor from Cornell Law Faculty in 1979. He modified into as soon as a corporate authorized skilled for Citigroup and quite quite a bit of of its predecessor enterprises.

In 1986, Mr. Levy married Ms. Sapinsley, an architect who now works within the Urban Future Lab at New York College. They had two youngsters, Hannah and Noah. They survive him.

He grew to turn into a liaison to community groups, alongside side the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/Push Wall Boulevard Mission. In 1994, the colleges chancellor, Ramon C. Cortines, named him to a payment on school products and services. It concluded that billions had been desired to reverse years of deferred upkeep. He lobbied and raised funds for the duty, and modified into as soon as named by the Legislature to the Board of Regents.

After his tenure as chancellor, Mr. Levy joined Kaplan Tutorial Foundation and based its on-line grasp’s of education program. From 2010 to 2014 he modified into as soon as the managing director of Palm Ventures, investing in colleges and academic technology. Since 2014, he had been executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which awards scholarships to thousands of low-earnings college students.

Mr. Levy, in a commentary in The Times on April eight this year, written with the education journalist Peg Tyre, acknowledged his pending loss of life and appealed for reforms to counterpoint the economic vary of college college students. He proposed ending the “legacy” admissions of youngsters of alumni, and practices cope with pre-utility college tours, which desire properly to do families; extra help to college students from heart- and dealing-class families, and extra high school steerage counselors to encourage them navigate admissions processes.

“Please discontinuance giving to your alma mater,” Mr. Levy entreated properly to do donors. “As soon as you occur to feel you must present, strive earmarking your donation for monetary help for low-earnings, community college college students who occupy applied to switch to your alma mater.”

In his chancellery days, Mr. Levy saved a portrait of Sir Thomas More, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who, after a contretemps with King Henry over a point of ecclesiastical law, modified into as soon as beheaded in 1535.

“He’s a authorized skilled, he’s an educator, he’s an real chancellor and he died for his principles,” Mr. Levy advised New York journal. “It’s a accept of inspirational reminder that issues would possibly well possibly per chance merely be worse.”


An earlier model of this obituary misstated the given title of Mr. Levy’s father. He modified into as soon as Hugo Levy, now now not Hugh.

Reprinted from Wednesday’s tiresome editions.

Sarah Mervosh contributed reporting.

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