Black's Appointment Now Up to State Ed Commissioner Steiner

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The man in charge of deciding whether publishing executive Cathie Black can be the city's next school's chancellor, despite her lack of education credentials, is often described as someone who thinks outside the box.

If there's a case to be made for an unconventional chancellor, then Education Commissioner David Steiner could be open to that based on his record. He's criticized teaching colleges for not being rigorous enough, he embraces alternate routes to certification and he supports using data to measure teacher performance.

Before taking the job in Albany in 2009, Steiner was dean of the Education School at Hunter College. But Hunter President Jennifer Raab, who on Thursday signed a letter urging Steiner to approve a waiver for Black, says the faculty originally wanted a dean with a PhD in Education. Steiner's doctorate, from Harvard, is in political science.

"When they met him and they saw his vision and his passion for transforming the school to make us the place that trained the best teachers in the country, they really engaged with him and this was the candidate that they wanted," she says.

Raab says Steiner transformed the school by integrating technology in teaching, using tiny cameras to record student teachers so they could learn by watching themselves. He also formed partnerships with charter schools.

"These were great changes and he brought the faculty along to see different ways of teaching and different types of engagement in an incredibly skillful manner and an incredibly respectful manner," she recalls.

Those are skills Mayor Bloomberg says Cathie Black can also bring to the city schools.

As for what Steiner will ultimately decide about the waiver, however, few people are willing to place any bets. Because he was appointed last year, this is the first time Steiner's had to decide on a waiver. The state requires school superintendents to have a license, a related master's degree, or three year's of teaching experience. Waivers can be granted to those with other exceptional qualifications. Mayor Bloomberg has argued that Black's experience running Hearst Magazines and USA Today meets that threshhold. He's also argued that she's dealt with education issues as a trustee of Notre Dame University and that she'd even be prepared for school construction projects because of her involvement in the new Hearst office tower.

As politicians, business leaders and parents for and against the mayor's pick now lobby Steiner, those who know him say he'll remain above the fray. He has declined to speak about the matter and says he will appoint a panel to study the waiver request. Robert Hughes, president of New Visions for Public Schools, says Steiner is "smart, understands educational issues and I think he acts in the best interests of kids."

Steiner is also relatively independent of politics. He was appointed by the Board of Regents, who are appointed by state legislators. That gives him some leeway, though he does rely on lawmakers for education funding. Hughes says there's no telling whether Steiner would agree with Mayor Bloomberg that Black doesn't need to be an educator because she'll be surrounded by them. Both of his parents were academics and his own career path reflects a deep respect for educators. Yet, the state allows for a waiver and in the case of New York City, the mayor controls the schools.

"You've got somebody who's not afraid of controversy, who's very smart, who's very committed to education as defined by effectiveness," says Hughes. "I can't venture to predict how he'll decide this."


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Comments [4]

Brenda from NYC

We all type too fast and make errors. However, if you are positioning yourself to represent NYC teachers (math or otherwise,) please use spell check.

Nov. 19 2010 11:21 AM

What the media is not seeing and refusing to see is the outright fact that education is number one priority. The mayor feels that management skills take precedence over pedagogy, curriculum, and community involvement. A waiver was given to H. Levy and J. Klein; did it bring about the reforms that those two unqualified, inexperienced lawyers made in the NYC school systems? This is not about bringing reforms and being their for the 1.1 million children, but the mayor's megalomaniac plan of breaking the union, closing all public schools, and creating a chain of charter schools so his empire can go from $4 billion in 2001 to $30 billion when he's leaves in 2013. Can anyone spell "kickback"!

Nov. 19 2010 11:05 AM
ak from Queens

I also hope that Cathy Black does NOT become the new Chancellor; conventional or unconventional Commissioner Black and BB did not build a case for public to trust BB choice. Black wrote one book to sell her great experience of being an executive behind USA today and Good Housekeeping; is that credibility what NY needs? can people transfer from private to public service just like that? ... All those business leaders who are signing for Black, where do their children go to school? Do they really care what happens to the public school system in NY? We drifted away from reality, we mostly care about being politically correct ...

Nov. 19 2010 08:52 AM
Judy Weber from NYC

I do hope that Ms. Black does NOT become our next chancellor.
We need someone with experience.

Nov. 18 2010 07:56 PM

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