Schools Chancellor Cathie Black Gets Booed at First Public Hearing

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The city's new Schools Chancellor, Cathie Black, was booed and heckled during her first appearance at a public meeting held by the Panel on Educational Policy Wednesday night.

Black, who recently made headlines for her crack about using birth control to curb school overcrowding, and the other 13 members of the panel made up of mostly mayoral appointees were often heckled at the monthly meeting. Dozens of students and teachers who opposed the proposal to allow a selective new high school to open in the same Park Slope building shared by three other schools attended. 

"There is no way we can afford to lose our brightest teachers," Black said over a chorus of boos after she brought up the elimination of thousands of teachers because of Bloomberg's impending budget cutbacks. She also echoed the mayor's call to end the state law requiring new teachers to be the first to go during layoffs.

Panel member Patrick Sullivan, appointed by the Manhattan borough president, was a vocal critic of Black and asked her Wednesday night to look into the shrinking number of city students who are finalists this year in a prestigious national science competition. He blamed it on focusing on a "drill and kill" method.

Black, staring straight ahead, did not look at Sullivan.

"Mr. Cunningham we appreciate your concern and we're all concerned," she said, apparently without realizing she had gotten his name wrong.

Speakers, lining up at the two microphones in the auditorium of Brooklyn Tech, lambasted the department's proposal to open a selective new branch of Millennium High School in the former campus of John Jay High School in Park Slope. Three other schools are currently sharing the space and their students and teachers were furious about having a new neighbor.

Demar Ayee, 17, of the Secondary School for Research at John Jay, carried a sign saying "Integrate Don't Segregate." He said he worried an academically competitive school would bring different kids into his building.

"There are going to be a lot of white and Asian students that are going to come into this school and then they're going to get the money that we always needed," he said, adding that he wants those students to be integrated among the existing schools in the building.

Department of education officials assured the audience that the new school would give priority to students from all over Brooklyn, and that another Millennium campus in Lower Manhattan is only one-third white. They noted that too many Brooklyn families are sending their children to high schools in other boroughs.

But students chanted and shouted, and a boy called the proposal "just another form of racism." Earlier in the night, Khem Irby, a parent who sits on the Community Education Council for District 13 in Brooklyn, led the crowd in "This Little School of Mine" (to the tune of "This Little Light of Mine") and then threw a bunch of condoms into the air, a reference to Black's joke about birth control for which she has since apologized

The long evening was a preview for what Black will see on February 1 and 3, when the panel votes on plans to close 25 low-performing schools. Many speakers were from those schools - which include Jamaica High and the Monroe Academy - and they urged the new chancellor to visit their schools.


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Comments [7]

Justmy$.02 from bronx

Now let's think about this if Bloomberg et al can't handle a snowstorm what about a big bureaucracy like the DOE? Like it or not schools are a billion dollar industry...a largely untapped market...Bloomberg and his cronnies are dying to get their hands on that money. If schools were doing well would there be any money to be made on these kids? Afterschool programs make money for their organizations. Tutoring programs make money on these kids. Private organizations who set up charter schools make money on these orgnizations. the private entity which hires teachers make money off the system.
There is so much going on behind the scenes it is ridiculous...parents amd kids are often apathetic, the state and fedral government are continually changing the curriculum standards, the methodology teachers are allowed to use in their classroom (don't believe me? do things your way and be prepared to get a U rating at the end of the year...impossible to get rid of teachers...ha!!!)...don't believe me, try to get a job for the DOE and see what it's like...go ahead, if you find a job teaching within a few months you'll be surprised at the end of the process....and then tell me what type of school you ended up that job for five years without quitting!!! Without quitting...and we'll see how quick you are to blame the schools...

Jan. 20 2011 12:33 PM
shelly from New York

aside from the fact that it was only because of Bloomberg's stuborness that an unqualified person was named as chancellor, her comments and demeaner show that she should resign. The Mayor has made it clear that he is in charge of the school system. Not allowing her to speak when she is asked a question and answering for her is also demeaning to her. She would due well to leave..

Jan. 20 2011 12:18 PM
shadeed ahmad from New York City

Everyone that is going to be touched by the educational system of New York City should push for moving progressively ahead with a positive attitude. Let's not waste time bickering about what can't be changed. What can happen is that education has the opportunity to possibly get better in New York City with non-partisan participation and the children's best interests in mind.

Jan. 20 2011 12:08 PM
Milleniumparent from Queens

the sense of entitlement shown by so many of these protesters is just pitiful. If more parents realized that education is a gift, and they started giving that gift to their children at home, from birth, and instilled in their kids a love of learning, then the schools would not be in such dire straits. Instead, parents expect the schools to do it all, and by the time those kids enter school it is already too late for most of them.

Jan. 20 2011 11:54 AM
tootie from Brooklyn

In the end it just seems people are reluctant to change and accountability, although, that is what the NYC school system needs right now. There are some reasonable arguments in every debate, but what is key is dialog and sincerely trying to understand why the other side may have the recommendations/ opinions that they have and how it may actually benefit to incorporate those ideas. This needs to be done by both sides.

Jan. 20 2011 11:08 AM

Why is opening academically competitive high school a form of racism? Asians are a majority in many selective high schools because they study hard and do well on selective exams. It is time for other minorities to start studying instead of blaming the system, etc.

Jan. 20 2011 10:58 AM
callmecynical from Queens

When will a reporter ask one of the protesters (regarding school closings) why they want to continue to send their children to a school the State says is failing its students? As a parent of public school chldren myself, I cannot fathom wanting my or any other City students to attend a very poorly performing school. When schools are closed, they are reorganized, with new leadership and teachers, and reopened as new schools. It's not like the City is shuddering the buildings forever and sending the students to another borough. What gives?

Jan. 20 2011 09:29 AM

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