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For Immediate Release
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Contact:Jacqueline Reis, 781-338-3115

Statement on Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester

MALDEN - It is with great sadness that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announces that longtime Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester, 65, passed away last night. He had led the department since May 2008 and was the longest serving of the country's current chief state school officers.

"On behalf of the entire administration, Lieutenant Governor Polito and I extend our deepest condolences to Commissioner Chester's family, friends and colleagues at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education during this difficult time," said Governor Charlie Baker. "Commissioner Chester was a dedicated educator and accomplished public servant. His leadership improved the lives of thousands of the Commonwealth's students and helped make our public school system a national leader. He will be terribly missed by all."

Commissioner Chester began his career as an elementary school teacher in Connecticut and later served as a middle school assistant principal and district curriculum coordinator. From there he moved to the Connecticut State Department of Education, where he oversaw curriculum and instructional programs. In 1997, he was named the executive director for accountability and assessment for Philadelphia. In 2001, he moved to Ohio, where he served as the senior associate superintendent for policy and accountability for the Ohio Department of Education.

Under his leadership, Massachusetts public schools have been recognized as the best in the nation, as shown by measures including the National Assessment of Educational Progress. In addition to his work in Massachusetts, Commissioner Chester was active nationally as a member of the National Assessment Governing Board and an active member of the Council of Chief State School Officers and Chiefs for Change.

"Mitchell Chester was proud of the Commonwealth's strong education system and dedicated to spreading that strength to all students, whether they lived in Lawrence or the Berkshires," said Education Secretary James Peyser. "He will be sorely missed."

"Mitchell brought his tremendous intellect, a listening ear, and his concern for students to the work of the Board and the Department," said Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Chair Paul Sagan. "The strength and dedication of his team reflects his strength and passion as a leader, and his passing is a loss for Massachusetts."

During Commissioner Chester's tenure, Massachusetts implemented laws and regulations that allowed the state to take a greater role in persistently underperforming districts, and at his recommendation, the state Board put three districts under state control: Lawrence, Holyoke, and Southbridge. Also during his tenure, the state began its move to a next-generation MCAS, choosing to update its own assessment rather than working through a consortium.

Commissioner Chester held a doctorate in administration, planning and social policy from Harvard University, as well as advanced degrees from the University of Connecticut and the University of Hartford.

News of Commissioner Chester's passing arrived minutes before a regularly scheduled Board meeting Tuesday morning. The Board has named Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson acting commissioner.

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Last Updated: June 27, 2017
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