A close-up look at NYC education policy, politics,and the people who have been, are now, or will be affected by these actions and programs. ATR CONNECT assists individuals who suddenly find themselves in the ATR ("Absent Teacher Reserve") pool and are the "new" rubber roomers, people who have been re-assigned from their life and career. A "Rubber Room" is not a place, but a process.
City education officials yesterday appointed a fresh-faced 27-year-old — who graduated from college just in 2007 — as the chief operating officer of the nation’s largest school system.
Andrew Buher, a graduate of New Jersey’s Rider University, has had a meteoric rise to the pinnacle of the 135,000-employee Department of Education since he was hired in September 2010 as a “special assistant.”
Since then, in just 30 months, the political-science and public-policy major has more than doubled his salary — from $75,000 to $152,000 — while working his way up to chief of staff to the chancellor.
With his appointment as COO, Buher will be getting his fourth raise in fewer than three years — though a DOE spokeswoman said the size of his salary bump has yet to be determined.
But Buher’s predecessor as COO, Veronica Conforme, earned $202,000.
“Andrew’s experience managing key operations, his deep knowledge of the system and his commitment to driving solutions that work for students make him the ideal person to serve as our chief operating officer,” Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said of the young third-year staffer.
Buher echoed Walcott’s enthusiasm. “I am excited and honored by this opportunity,” he said.
Buher grew up in Lawrence, NJ, and briefly attended Tulane University in New Orleans until returning home following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
As a senior at Rider, Buher became the first student from the college to receive a presidential fellowship from the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress in Washington, DC.
He also interned as a policy adviser in the office of then-NJ Gov. Jon Corzine.
He worked with several charter schools in New York City before earning a master’s degree in public policy and administration from Columbia in 2010.
Last year, he got married to Caroline Burns — also a New Jersey native and Columbia graduate, who works in physical therapy.
“Andrew was someone who carried himself with a degree of professionalism; he was always in business attire or, at the least, business casual,” said Jesse Forsythe, who was Buher’s teammate at Rider University’s mock-United Nations group.
“He was looked to as the guy who could handle the situation.”
Conforme, Buher’s predecessor, is leaving to become a vice president at the College Board.
She had worked at the DOE for eight years — including as chief financial officer and deputy chief schools officer for operations — before being appointed COO in 2011.
Also yesterday, Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg was tapped to be senior deputy chancellor for strategy and policy.
Andrew transferred to Rider from Tulane University in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. A Lawrenceville native, he was familiar with Rider and heard good things about the political science program. It was also close to home and convenient — important issues for someone who had to make a quick decision.
Rider's Impact on Andrew’s Career
Upon enrolling, he spoke with Dr. Arlene Wilner about joining Rider’s Baccalaureate Honors Program. “I was interested in the scope of issues covered. I liked the fact that it was team taught in a seminar style with lots of classroom discussion. There’s value in learning from peers as well as teachers.
“It was a great experience — probably one of the best learning experiences I’ve ever had. Our professors didn’t just encourage us to learn, they encouraged us to think and to respond. It was a great opportunity to meet people, learn from other students and learn from top professors who are highly motivated and interested in the subject they are teaching.”
As an undergraduate, Andrew became the first Rider student to receive a presidential fellowship from the Center for the Study of the Presidents in Washington, D.C. Through the fellowship, he attended two conferences in Washington and worked with Political Science professor and honors thesis advisor, Dr. Harvey Kornberg, on a paper on the modern presidency. Also while at Rider, Andrew interned at the Office of the Governor of New Jersey where he worked on education policy issues.
After graduatingmagna cum laudefrom Rider, Andrew served as chief operating officer of an education start-up that helped low-income and first generation high education enrollees navigate the college admission process. He joined Education Pioneers in New York City as a fellow in 2009 while pursuing a master’s in public administration at Columbia University. As a fellow, he worked on The Equity Project (TEP) Charter School where he was responsible for development, operations and event planning. In September 2010, he joined the staff of the New York City Department of Education as special assistant to the deputy chief schools officer and became chief of staff to the chief financial officer three months later. He served as chief of staff to the chief operating officer for the past two years before recently being appointed to serve as chief of staff to the Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott.
“My professors at Rider gave me a foundation of tools and knowledge to build on. My interaction with other students, professors and administrators — including President Rozanski — allowed me to observe firsthand the habits and resilience of purpose necessary to be a transformational leader. Today, I’m in a position where I have the opportunity to positively transform education for all children in the United States.”