December 1, 2023
Harold O. Levy, Modern Unique York Metropolis Colleges Chief, Dies at sixty five
ImageHarold O. Levy at Public School 189 in Washington Heights, his former school, on his first day as interim schools chancellor in 2000.CreditCreditLibrado Romero/The New York TimesHarold O. Levy, who as the chancellor of New York City’s vast public school system from 2000 to 2002 waged war on its bureaucracy, created specialized high schools and…
Harold O. Levy at Public College 189 in Washington Heights, his vulnerable college, on his first day as meantime schools chancellor in 2000.CreditCreditLibrado Romero/The Unique York Times

Harold O. Levy, who because the chancellor of Unique York Metropolis’s gargantuan public college gadget from 2000 to 2002 waged battle on its bureaucracy, created specialised high schools and attracted 1000’s of glossy teachers by insisting on increased starting up wages, died on Tuesday at his dwelling in The large apple. He turned into sixty five.

His wife, Pat Sapinsley, stated the explanation turned into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Mr. Levy had in recent years been govt director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the nation’s greatest scholarship foundation.

The son of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, Mr. Levy grew up in Unique York Metropolis, attended its public schools and grew to turn into a Wall Avenue lawyer who immersed himself privately for years in recount and metropolis training points. While he had no expertise as an educator, he had headed a 1995 metropolis commission that castigated the metropolis over shoddy college stipulations, and as a member of the Unique York Board of Regents he sought extra recount funding for metropolis schools.

Appointed on an meantime foundation by the Board of Training in January 2000, explicitly in opposition to the desires of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Levy, a minute, vigorous man who arrived at his glossy map of job in a pinstriped suit carrying a pillow embroidered with “No Upright Deed Goes Unpunished,” faced daunting challenges directing the nation’s greatest public college gadget.

It turned into a behemoth with 1.1 million college students, eighty four % of them from minority groups; 78,000 teachers whose contracts had been expiring and whose ranks faced heavy retirement losses; an increasing outdated infrastructure of 1,a hundred 45 schools, most of them overcrowded and decrepit, and a $thirteen billion funds that specialists known as insufficient.

Mr. Levy, a Citigroup govt unknown to the public and even to many elected officials, turned into a modern Democrat and had the enhance of Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, and a few editorial commentators, at the side of Bob Herbert of The Unique York Times, who known as him “a devoted and talented man.”

Overnight, Mr. Levy grew to turn into one of the metropolis’s most visible figures, a prosperous man who didn’t need the townhouse that went with the job and whose kids attended a non-public college. His choice, which required a waiver from the recount training commissioner for a noneducator to qualify, trigger off a howl from conservative politicians, who known as him a rich liberal indulging his social judgment of correct and wrong.

But Mr. Levy, an admirer of poetry and of Sir Thomas More, whose chancellorship under King Henry VIII would possibly perchance per chance presumably per chance fair had been the final thankless job, plunged into his glossy pickle with optimism, anxious humor and the frenzied tempo of a vitality dealer desirous to shake issues up. “I know the gadget would possibly perchance per chance presumably per chance make,” Mr. Levy told a knowledge convention. “So it’s going to. Uncomplicated as that.”

Mr. Levy’s make a selection-payment scheme and zeal for training soon won a following. Editorials educated the board to support him and to cease browsing for a permanent replacement for the vulnerable chancellor, Rudy Crew, who had been ousted after combating with Mr. Giuliani over college vouchers. Mr. Giuliani at final endorsed Mr. Levy, who grew to turn into the permanent chancellor after four months on the job.

An early assignment turned into to prepare the safe summer college in metropolis historical previous for 300,000 failing college students; they had been required to attend the teachings under a glossy coverage that ended computerized promotion to the following grade. Beyond someone’s reckoning, his summer college largely succeeded, with U.F.T. wait on in recruiting 17,000 teachers for the assignment. The metropolis’s summer college is amassed the safe within the nation.

In his first yr, Mr. Levy created his signature program — Unique York Metropolis Instructing Fellows, a local model of Educate for America. In its first two years, it recruited some 1,500 folks from other professions, many of them African-American or Hispanic, to determine on atomize courses and educate or mentor in metropolis schools in substitute for tuition for a grasp’s diploma main to trainer certification.

With a businesslike scheme that emphasized accountability, effectivity and group, Mr. Levy instituted a series of reforms. He slashed a host of guidelines and reworked a quantity of failing schools to non-public management. He instituted the metropolis’s first Okay-12 pupil-knowledge gadget. And he created programs offering college-level instruction.

Mr. Levy additionally opened three glossy specialised schools: the High College of Mathematics, Science and Engineering at Metropolis College; the High College of American Experiences at Lehman College within the Bronx, and the High College for Sciences at York College in Queens. The universities opened doors for 1000’s of minority college students who would possibly perchance per chance presumably per chance fair no longer have otherwise had access to specialised training.

In 2002, the U.F.T. won a glossy metropolis contract, which raised entry-level teachers’ salaries sharply, to $39,000 from $31,900, and created an different make of certification that required some distance less practising. Which ability, 1000’s who would possibly perchance per chance presumably per chance by no scheme have regarded as teaching in Unique York Metropolis — folks neatly pleasant out of college or older folks engaging by a occupation trade — utilized for jobs.

While Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the academics’ union would possibly perchance per chance presumably per chance claim credit for negotiating the contract, Mr. Levy stated it turned into he who had “insisted that we now have $39,000 and no longer a penny less.”

After years struggling to recruit enough certified teachers to own even 1/2 its lecture room vacancies, the metropolis hired a bounty of 8,300 applicants. Many accredited significant-to-own positions in skittish schools.

In August 2002, Mayor Bloomberg, who had campaigned on a declare to determine on alter of the faculty gadget, named Joel Klein to be triumphant Mr. Levy. In an editorial, The Times likened the faculty gadget to “a huge vulnerable battleship,” and hailed Mr. Levy for guidance it “nearer to the magnificent direction.”

Harold Oscar Levy turned into born in The large apple on Dec. 14, 1952, to Hugo and Alice Levy. His father had been a textile merchant in Nazi Germany. After his oldsters escaped, his father owned a ironmongery store in Unique York. Harold grew up within the Washington Heights share of The large apple.

He graduated from the Bronx High College of Science in 1970, earned a bachelor of science diploma from Cornell College in 1974, a grasp’s diploma in politics, philosophy and economics from Oxford College in 1978, and a juris doctor from Cornell Law College in 1979. He turned into a company lawyer for Citigroup and quite so much of different of its predecessor enterprises.

In 1986, Mr. Levy married Ms. Sapinsley, an architect who now works within the Metropolis Future Lab at Unique York College. They had two kids, Hannah and Noah. They continue to exist him.

He grew to turn into a liaison to community groups, at the side of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/Push Wall Avenue Mission. In 1994, the colleges chancellor, Ramon C. Cortines, named him to a commission on college companies and products. It concluded that billions had been fundamental to reverse years of deferred upkeep. He lobbied and raised funds for the assignment, and turned into named by the Legislature to the Board of Regents.

After his tenure as chancellor, Mr. Levy joined Kaplan Tutorial Foundation and founded its on-line grasp’s of coaching program. From 2010 to 2014 he turned into the managing director of Palm Ventures, investing in schools and tutorial technology. Since 2014, he had been govt director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which awards scholarships to 1000’s of low-earnings college students.

Mr. Levy, in a commentary in The Times on April 8 this yr, written with the discovering out journalist Peg Tyre, acknowledged his pending demise and appealed for reforms to counterpoint the financial diversity of college college students. He proposed ending the “legacy” admissions of kids of alumni, and practices appreciate pre-utility college excursions, which desire prosperous households; extra attend to varsity students from center- and dealing-class households, and additional high college guidance counselors to wait on them navigate admissions processes.

“Please cease giving to your alma mater,” Mr. Levy educated prosperous donors. “Even as you feel you would possibly perchance per chance presumably per chance fair must give, strive earmarking your donation for monetary attend for low-earnings, community college college students who’ve utilized to transfer 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 level of ecclesiastical guidelines, turned into beheaded in 1535.

“He’s a lawyer, he’s an educator, he’s an actual chancellor and he died for his ideas,” Mr. Levy told Unique York journal. “It’s a style of inspirational reminder that issues would possibly perchance per chance presumably per chance very successfully be worse.”


An earlier model of this obituary misstated the given name of Mr. Levy’s father. He turned into Hugo Levy, no longer Hugh.

Reprinted from Wednesday’s gradual editions.

Sarah Mervosh contributed reporting.

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Harold O. Levy, sixty five, Salvage-Charge Modern Who Led Unique York Metropolis Colleges

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