New York City Schools Chancellor Dies

May 17, 1989 2 min read

Richard R. Green, who was hired just 14 months ago as chancellor of the New York City school system, died suddenly last week at the age of 52.

He apparently suffered a heart attack brought on by chronic asthma, according to school-district officials.

Mr. Green’s death on the morning of May 10 created a leadership vacuum in the nation’s largest school system and saddened colleagues across the country.

“Education has lost an admired and effective leader who virtually gave his life to help ensure a better life for his fellow human beings,’' said Gary Marx, associate executive director of the American Association of School Administrators.

Reactions were particularly intense in Minneapolis, where Mr. Green had worked his way up from the classroom to become superintendent of schools for eight years before accepting the New York post last year.

“He was for many people sort of larger than life--a role model, a visionary, a dreamer,” said Judith L. Farmer, a member of the Minneapolis school board. “He gave a lot of people hope.”

The New York City Board of Education moved immediately to designate the system’s deputy chief, Bernard Mecklowitz, as acting chancellor. Mr. Mecklowitz, former superintendent of the4city’s Community District 1, was named to the number-two post by Mr. Green earlier this year.

A board spokesman said discussions of a search for a new chancellor would be delayed until after the funeral, which was scheduled for May 13 in Minneapolis.

Provided ‘Real Hope’

A clean slate awaited Mr. Green when he accepted the chancellorship, despite the acrimony that characterized the five-month selection process.

“He started to provide real hope for the school system during the short time he was here--a belief that education could and would improve for this city’s children,” said Sandra Feldman, president of the United Federation of Teachers, who had originally backed a competing candidate for the post.

Mr. Green admitted in interviews that he was having difficulty mastering the city’s complicated politics early in his term. But many observers said he had consolidated his position in recent months and was acting with a renewed sense of confidence.

Supporters credited him with moving to restore morale among teachers and students during frequent visits to schools and by creating programs to reduce drug abuse and school violence.

Responding to charges that the district’s central bureaucracy had become bloated, Mr. Green transferred some 2,000 central-office employees to schools and community-district offices.

Much of Mr. Green’s tenure was marked by scandals involving school employees and members of the system’s 32 community boards. The chancellor suspended two boards pending the outcome of citywide elections this month, but was unsuccessful in his efforts to spark increased voter interest in the contests. (See Education Week, May 10, 1989.)

Memorial contributions may be sent to the Hale House for Infants, 154 West 122nd St., New York, N.Y. 10027, or the Richard Green Scholarship Fund, in care of the Minneapolis Public Schools, Superintendent’s Office, 807 N.E. Broadway, Minneapolis, Minn. 55413.--ws

A version of this article appeared in the May 17, 1989 edition of Education Week as New York City Schools Chancellor Dies