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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Schools Chancellor Gets Waiver, Bronx Assembly Members Continue Criticism

Cathleen Black, the veteran publishing executive, is the city's new schools chancellor. 

Black was put forward for the job by Mayor Bloomberg earlier this month, but her candidacy had been in jeopardy after State Education Commissioner David Steiner queried her lack of related work experience.

Chancellors-to-be need a professional certificate in educational leadership and other qualifications. Black's had a successful career in business and publishing - she's been called the "First Lady of glamorous glossies" - but she's never been a teacher, and her resume boasts just a single day as a guest principal in the Bronx.

To get around this, Black needed Steiner to grant her a waiver, and yesterday he did just that, having been convinced that her lack of experience would be mitigated by the appointment of a chief academic officer to serve as her deputy.

Last night, Bronx Assembly members Vanessa Gibson and Marco Crespo released a joint statement slamming Steiner's decision. 

“The appointment of a new Chancellor will have a direct impact upon the direction of the nation’s largest school system at a critical time and affect the quality of education for more than a million children especially those in communities like mine in the Bronx,” Gibson said. “This is not the time to compromise on who will lead New York’s schools or to adopt a ‘Let’s Make A Deal’ approach regarding the person who will be leading public education in our City.”

Gibson added: “It is particularly insulting that Commissioner Steiner is claiming that Ms. Black has ‘extraordinary experience’ when everyone knows that her credentials don’t provide the excellence in education needed for this important post. New York City’s families deserve better than a Chancellor who has to hide her lack of credentials behind a fatally flawed fig leaf.”

Crespo has co-sponsored legislation which would require the state legislature to sign off on all waivers.  In his statement with Gibson, he said. "This type of backdoor game will only undermine the public’s confidence in our schools and I will continue to fight for legislation that would require the full state Legislature to vote on such a waiver in joint session before it can take affect."

Other Black critics, including the Coalition for Public Education and civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel, are now threatening to take the matter to court. 

As we reported last week, Bronx politicians are split as to whether Black is a solid choice.  Councilman Joel Rivera, for one, is a staunch supporter.  In a letter sent to Steiner, that reads as a glowing reference, Rivera said Black was "committed to keeping the focus on ending inequality in education and closing the achievement gap."

In phone interview, Rivera, asked to elaborate, said Black had called him and convinced him that she would work closely with local elected officials - something Klein's opponents said he failed to do.

Not that Rivera is critical of Klein. "[He's] done a pretty remarkable job with the Department of Education," he said. 

Rivera said there are two schools of thought: one, that you need an educator to run a school system, and two, that when you have a 135,000-employee agency, with a multi-billion dollar budget, you need, first and foremost, a strong manager. Rivera is firmly in the second camp. 

"It's not as if she'll be in the classroom," he said.  "Give her an opportunity to show what she can do... instead of ridiculing."

Black's chief academic officer will be Shael Polakow-Suransky, a former teacher and principal who founded the Bronx International High School, a small school located in the Morris High School Campus.  You can read more about Polakow-Suransky here.


  1. Wouldn't a "lack of inexperience" mean that she was indeed experienced?

  2. I meant experience not inexperience. Thanks for spotting that. It's been changed.

  3. rabble rabble rabble! this is bad because she is rich and white! rabble rabble! cue the protests outside of bronx courthouses and schools! rabble rabble! bloomy's plutarchy has run amok! rabble rabble! only the educational veterans who have done such a great job with new york city schools for the past fifty years should be able to run the schools! rabble rabble! status quo! status quo status quo! nothing new! nothing new! rabble rabble! keep funding failing schools! keep funding failing schools! never hold the parents to task! never hold the parents to task! rabble rabble rabble!


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