Some advice for Cathie Black on NYC schools job
It is a little hard to understand why Cathleen Black would want to be New York public schools chancellor. A week after she was tapped by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to succeed Joel Klein, who resigned after eight years as chancellor, Black has come under withering attack from parents, teachers and elected officials because of her lack of credentials for the job.
They were summed up in a letter that Patrick J. Sullivan, a city Board of Education member, wrote to state Education Commissioner David Steiner. The letter notes serious public concern about the selection of Black, former USA Today publisher and head of Hearst Magazines :
1. She has no educational qualifications, lacking both teaching and administrative experience. She has no academic credentials in the field of education.
2. She has no exposure whatsoever to public education. She was educated in private schools and chose to educate her own children in private schools.
3. She has no experience in the public sector.
4. No search was conducted for candidates. Many in the public dismiss the selection as simple cronyism.
5. There was no consideration of internal candidates despite consensus that some number of strong candidates is available.
6. There was no vetting of the candidate. No one interviewed Ms. Black. By her admission her first discussion of the position followed the offer by the mayor.
Other than that, she seems like a perfect fit.
All of this explains why Black is wasting no time cramming on education issues so she can jump right into the job, assuming Steiner grants her a waiver from the job qualifications that are written into state law. (The board of education, by state law, is the entity that is supposed to formally request a waiver. Sullivan asked Steiner not to consider a request from another source, noting that the mayor isn't legally supposed to ask.)
Black is, according to the New York Times, learning about budgets and reading curriculum (reading curriculum?), and talking to a range of people about public education and how to manage it. Here’s how the Times put it:
“She is also spending time reaching out to elected officials, labor leaders, scholars and education leaders, including Michelle A. Rhee, a former Washington schools chancellor, in hopes of building a broader base of support.”
Perhaps Black didn’t pay much attention to Rhee’s three-year tenure in Washington, when she became something of a poster child for school bosses who do what they want without asking anybody else because they don’t care what anybody else thinks.
Rhee, after she recently resigned, even acknowledged she had been lousy at community outreach. Maybe she can advise Black on what not to do.
Black, of course, has her supporters. The Times quotes Eli Broad, a billionaire who has donated an extraordinarily large amount of money to education reform causes and who loved Klein, is one of them.
"She clearly has to do her homework,” Broad told the Times. “She’s got to be visiting with a lot of people that have been in education for many years."
Visit with a lot of people who have been in education for many years? Would he hire someone who knows nothing about the job he wants done and advise them to visit with people who had been doing it for years?
Black wrote a book called "Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life)," which tells the reader how to get ahead at work and in life with stories and bits of advice such as: "Dress for the occasion," and "When traveling with colleagues, stay at least a room apart."
Given that the opposition to her appointment isn't likely to go away, perhaps the best advice for Black right now would be not to take a job for which she in not qualified.
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| November 16, 2010; 3:20 PM ET
Categories: Educational leadership | Tags: broad foundation, cathie black, cathleen black, david steiner, eli broad, hearst magazines, joel klein, mayor bloomberg, michael bloomberg, michelle a. rhee, michelle rhee, new york city schools, nyc schools, waivers
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