Mitchell Chester, the state commissioner of elementary and secondary education, died unexpectedly last night, at the age of 65, after battling cancer. He leaves behind a wife and five children.
Remembrances from state officials have been pouring in all day. Paul Sagan, chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, told WBUR, "It's easy to forget that we didn't always have the best public schools in the country. And Mitchell is a big reason that we have such great schools, and he still came in fired up all the time, to try to make places even better — to make good schools great, and schools that aren't doing what we want — to make them really good."
In a statement, Governor Charlie Baker called Commissioner Chester a "dedicated educator and accomplished public servant, [whose] leadership improved the lives of thousands of the Commonwealth's students and helped make our public school system a national leader."
And Education Secretary Jim Peyser said Chester leaves a "legacy that will stand for many, many years and generations."
Paul Reville, Professor of Practice of Educational Policy and Administration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He served as the Secretary of Education in Massachusetts from 2008-2013. He tweets @PaulReville.