City | 12:15 am | September 7, 2011 | By Alon Harish

Malloy nominates Eli to top education post

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Photo by Alon Harish.

Gov. Dannel Malloy will name Stefan Pryor ’93 LAW ’98 to Connecticut’s top education post Wednesday afternoon.

A former Ward 1 alderman and education policy aide to Mayor John DeStefano Jr., Pryor helped found one of the nation’s first charter schools, Amistad Academy during his years in New Haven. In nominating him to be commissioner of the state’s board of education, Malloy brings Pryor back to Connecticut from a decade spent in economic development efforts as head of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and as deputy mayor of Newark, N.J.

Veteran New Haven aldermen who remember Pryor from his time serving on the Board of Aldermen while an undergraduate said Malloy made an excellent choice in Pryor, who they described as wise beyond his years.

“A lot of his colleagues would often forget how young and inexperienced he was,” President of the Board and Ward 29 Alderman Carl Goldfield.

While she was elected after Pryor’s departure from the Board, Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark said she remembered Pryor as an education visionary. At its founding in 1999, Amistad Academy was one of the only schools of its kind in the country and has since become a model for charter schools nationwide.

While the charter school movement has at times clashed with advocates of traditional public education and teachers’ unions, Goldfield said he believes Pryor’s leadership of the state’s schools will be marked by collaboration, not confrontation.

“Stefan is a pragmatic, practical person, not an ideologue,” he said. “He knows how to lead people and listen to new ideas.”

Pryor’s background in charter schools, however, suggests that as the state’s schools chief he will push for measures such as teacher evaluations, lengthened school days, and other measures that have drawn opposition by teachers’ unions, Clark said.

In his position as head of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, Pryor was a leading figure in New York City’s rebuilding efforts in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Since 2006, Pryor has been a close aide to his fellow law school alum, Newark Mayor Cory Booker LAW ’97, as the city’s deputy mayor for economic development.

In his new job, Pryor faces the challenge of tackling one of the widest educational achievement gaps in the nation.

Malloy will announce Pryor’s nomination at the state board of education’s regular meeting Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

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