Compromise Reached for Black to Become NYC Schools Chancellor

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mayor Bloomberg appoints Cathie Black, as Joel Klein steps down (Edward Reed/WNYC)

State Education Commissioner David Steiner is poised to grant a waiver allowing publishing executive Cathie Black to become New York City Schools Chancellor, following a deal to appoint an experienced city educator as her second-in-command.

In a ten-page letter to Steiner on Friday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg amended his request to give Black a waiver from rules requiring her to have specific education credentials. The letter said Black had decided to elevate a deputy chancellor, Shael Polakow Suransky, to a new position called Senior Deputy Chancellor and Chief Academic Advisor.

Bloomberg's letter said it was Black's decision to create this position and that this appointment reflects her commitment to a leadership principle of empowering those around you, much like Bloomberg. "She understands the role of a leader is not to micro-manage every division but to hire the best people, give them the room they need to innovate and hold them accountable for success," he wrote.

The mayor had nominated Black to run the city school system on November 9th, in a surprise move that was highly criticized by politicians, parents and teachers who said the job should have been given to an educator. Outgoing chancellor Joel Klein was an attorney who led the U.S. Justice Department's anti-trust division before his appointment in 2002, but he taught briefly in the city schools and attended public schools growing up in Queens. Black has 40 years experience in publishing, most recently as chairman of Hearst Magazines, but she has no advanced degrees or experience working in education. She attended parochial schools and her children attended a private boarding school.

The mayor argued that Black was a "world class manager" who was the right person to lead the system of 135,000 employees, more than a million students, and a $23 billion budget during a time of fiscal stress. He also argued that she would be surrounded by deputies who understood education policy and he mounted a public campaign to rally support for Black from the business community and politicians including three former mayors.

But on Tuesday, an advisory panel rejected the mayor's request for Black's waiver. Education Commissioner David Steiner suggested he would be open to the request if it was revised to include a Chief Academic Officer type of position, to be held by an educator with some degree of autonomy. The commissioner and the mayor then apparently spent the next few days discussing this request and the mayor conceded. Steiner is expected to grant a waiver for Black on Monday, according to a high-level source.

Bloomberg's letter says Polakow-Suranksy will report directly to Black and oversee "all pedagogic matters." According to the letter, he will oversee the implementation of major educational policies including curriculum, education reform and staff development, academic testing and evaluation, and compliance with legislative and judicial mandates.

Polakow-Suransky, 38, has worked in the school system for over a decade. He was a teacher and also started an international school in the Bronx before moving on to the central administration where he led the effort to open new high schools. He is currently the deputy chancellor in charge of accountability - the unit responsible for creating A-F letter grades for schools based largely on student performance.

Officials from the State Department of Education did not return calls seeking comment. A spokesman for United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew says the union looks forward to working with Black and Polakow-Suransky. Critics of Black's appointment however, including Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and the parent group Class Size Matters, said they still believe Black doesn't deserve the waiver if it's based on pairing her with an educator and suggested they would explore the legality of the arrangement.


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Comments [7]

ak from NYC

at the age of 66 Black would be an apprentice on the job; seeking a position w/o really knowing much about it and then even collecting a salary is to much; the legality of this choice should be reviewed;

Nov. 28 2010 10:18 AM
Geoff from Pelham, NY

If Ms. Black were truly interested in serving, she should voluntarily cede her salary. She can do what executives used to do--become "dollar a year men." The $250,000 salary is meaningless to her. But because of her complete lack of qualifications, the taxpayers will have to pay a second salary for somebody who actually can--at a time when the city is planning the largest teacher layoffs in decades. This is three teachers at least who can be saved. Cathie, don't add greed to vanity. Give it up. For the kids.

Nov. 28 2010 07:53 AM
Michael Meltzer

The trouble is, what happens in school is onl half the story, if even that. I was taught to read at the age of four by my older sister, I read voraciously and I made my own education.
I made sure my own two children were equipped to do the same, from get-go. No matter what happens downtown, the quality of the schoolroom depends on whether the teacher is an inspired, devoted educator or a blithering idiot. If your child doesn't have super reading skills, he or she is defenseless.
Second point: children learn by example. If they see their parents read, they will read. If their parents are excited about learning things, they will be also.
It has always been that way. People working their way out of an oppressed existence think the schools have the answer. They never did.
The magic ticket was always the library card. Now there's the internet too, if it's used the same way.

Nov. 28 2010 04:56 AM
Parent from Queens

With Mayor BB one more time people do not matter and our children do not matter; what does it matter? Is CB a bold person whose main task will be to fire teachers and others? Many know that Cathy Black is not for the task with or without the Deputy. "world class manager" said who? ..who approved of CB outside of US? ; aside of USA Today, a paper distributed on the highways and in the motels ...and Good Housekeeping (who reads it anyway) ...what else is CB?

The head of Teachers Union,wants to please the Mayor more than to do his own job; This case is for the courts.

Nov. 27 2010 10:19 AM
Gerry Segal from Manhattan

In Education: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

New York City just got a new Chancellor of Education who never taught a class. Putting up an educatoir who is a scarecrow, giving them a fancy title and thinking that it means anything other than the sheer political will power wouldn’t get past a street wise 3rd grader. How do they sleep at night?

I taught in the south Bronx 45 years ago. Same problems..­.different players. Nobody cares about the kids. This song I wrote in 1966 tells the whole story.

Nov. 27 2010 09:13 AM
Shadeed Ahmad from New York, New York

This promises to be the New York City Department of Education's version of Bush and Cheney.

It's cloak and dagger politics that will not be denied because of an emphasis on shortchanging our children for the glory of tyranny and trying to vindicate the god complex of the corporate mentality.

The children's futures are collateral damage in the war to enslave or remove the non-wealthy from New York City for the comfort of the wealthy.

Nov. 27 2010 04:24 AM
SmithonPolitics from New York, NY

This is a ten page waste of time. The Education Commissioner is wrong for blunting the wishes of many New Yorkers and his own review committee in granting the waiver. Bloomberg tried to make teh case that appointed a CAO "empowers staff" and is the type of leadership he wants to see in his people. If that's the case, did Joel Klein fail to exhibit such leadership skills because he didn't see the need for the post?

Nov. 26 2010 11:11 PM

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