Hers should be an eventful tenure at NYSED:
Elia will be overseeing implementation of a controversial new teacher evaluation program and she will have to continue to straighten out the years-long and troubled rollout of a Common Core learning standards.
But just as important, she'll have to mediate relations between the Board of Regents, which hired her and oversees the state Education Department, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been battling the Regents and Education Department with no signs of a letup.
Top officials downplay the potential conflict.
"Let's welcome her and see what she can add (to the process)," Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said. Her advice: "Be yourself, do the right thing, listen carefully and communicate actively.''
But outside observers see the storm clouds only growing given the rift between Cuomo, as well as reformers such as charter school proponents and much of the education establishment.
"Elia is walking into a minefield. Her political skills will be tested," education analyst and researcher Diane Ravitch said in an email.
"She was chosen unanimously, but the board is deeply divided," Ravitch added, referring to the 17-member Board of Regents.
Cuomo has been happy to blame any problems in the education system on NYSED, Tisch threw former NYSED Commissioner King under the bus during the "Dr. Ted J. Morris Jr." mess, parents and teachers will be quick to show opposition to Elia if and when she chooses to follow a reformy course, the opt out movement is set to expand even more next year and the Board of Regents is engaged in internecine fighting over the future of the state's education policy.
On top of these external issues, Elia brings her own "issues" to NYSED:
Creating a fear-based workplace where subordinates felt "browbeaten" and bullied.
Accused of trying to cover up district complicity in the death of a 7 year old special needs child.
Was the target of parent protest for lack of district response after a second special needs child died at a Hillsborough school.
Oversaw a school district that has been accused of racial discrimination in its discipline policies and is target of federal complaint.
Oversaw a school busing and choice program that created a "reign of chaos" at McLane Middle School for ten years.
Was dubbed "MaryEllen EVILia" by some parents for pursuing district policies that harmed children with special needs.
Couldn't play nice with the school board and was ultimately whacked in a 4-3 vote in January.
She has reputation for vindictiveness, an inability to get along with others (like school board members) and an unwillingless to take responsibility for mistakes.
Given the room of vipers she's stepping into as new NYSED commissioner, with Cuomo ready to scapegoat NYSED for real and perceived mistakes, the Legislature piling on lots in the way of new mandates with little in the way of new money to carry out those mandates, a Regents board fighting amongst itself about the future of ed policy and many parents and teachers openly hostile to NYSED, it's difficult to see someone with Elia's personal and leadership flaws staying around too long.