This afternoon, an eight-member advisory panel appointed by State Education Commissioner David M. Steiner will meet to discuss the credentials of Cathleen Black, the veteran publishing executive who is hoping to become the city's next Schools chancellor.
The panel will then make a recommendation to Steiner as to whether or not he should grant Black a waiver. State law requires that chancellors hold certain qualifications, including a professional certificate in educational leadership. Black, who Mayor Bloomberg tapped to replace News Corp.-bound Joel Klein, has never before worked in education, and so her fate is in the commissioner's hands.
The meeting comes just as opposition to Black's appointment appears to be growing. In a poll released today by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, the majority of respondents deemed her unfit to lead the school system.
Several Bronx politicans have also questioned Black's suitability.
Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson wrote a letter to Steiner earlier this month, asking him to deny the waiver.
Assemblymen Jeffrey Dinowitz and Nelson Castro wrote similar letters. In a phone interview yesterday, Castro said the job should go to someone with an educational background. "Great principals, their next step up should be doing that," he said. Castro says Klein failed to consider parents' and elected officials' ideas and opinions, and fears Black would be similarly dismissive.
Council members Annabel Palma and Melissa Mark-Viverito also oppose Black's appointment, as does Assemblyman Marco Crespo, who is co-sponsoring legislation which would require the state legislature to sign off on all waivers.
"It is imperative that any decision on the issuance of a waiver for someone seeking ‘exceptionally qualified person status’ undergo a careful and comprehensive review process to ensure that the selectee is the most qualified individual available," Crespo said in a statement.
Some local pols, however, are in Black's corner.
Council member Oliver Koppell told the Riverdale Press that she should be given a chance. Councilman Joel Rivera went further. In a letter sent to Steiner, Rivera said he "wholeheartedly" endorses Black. He added:
Public school students and families in The Bronx need a fighter for us. In her long career in publishing, Ms. Black has proven she can take on the challenges of running a large, complex organization, even in difficult financial times. She’s demonstrated an ability to work with international communities - currently oversees 14 magazines with over 200 editions in more than 100 countries – that’s almost as diverse as our schools. And she’s committed to keeping the focus on ending inequality in education and closing the achievement gap.
Councilman Jimmy Vacca is also a fan. He told City Hall: “To those who would prefer a long, exhaustive national search and a public process for the selection of the next chancellor, I would remind them to look in the history at the old New York City Board of Education. That type of process did not work.”
Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., meanwhile, is cautiously optimistic that Black will be a success. "In many ways Bronx parents and parents throughout the city have lost confidence in the Department of Education, and I am hopeful that Ms. Black will usher in a new era of collaboration and community responsiveness at the DOE while we work together to improve our public schools for the 1.1 million children who rely on them," Diaz said in a statement released shortly after her nomination.