The N.Y. chancellorship mess gets messier
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg likely did not anticipate the heavy pushback he would get against his decision to tap a media executive with no experience in public education as the next chancellor of New York’s public school system
It’s about time that there’s a strong public backlash to an ill-considered education decision. This one has been so strong that the state education commissioner, David Steiner, appointed an eight-person panel that tomorrow will interview Cathleen Black, the Hearst Magazines president who Bloomberg named to succeed the retiring Joel Klein, and make a recommendation as to whether he should grant a waiver to allow her to take the job.
Waivers are required for specific New York education jobs if candidates do not have sufficient experience in the education world. There is a reason that the law was passed in the first place: Experience matters.
Bloomberg knew this when he founded Bloomberg News in 1990 with Matthew Winkler, a veteran business and financial journalist and author who is now editor-in-chief. Bloomberg knew he needed someone with a knowledge of journalism to run a journalism enterprise. Winkler knew he needed a journalist when he named Susan Goldberg, editor of the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, as executive editor last month.
The world of education is no different. Educators should run educational operations because they understand why and how things need to be done. Principals should be educational leaders because they have to understand the demands on their teachers. School district leaders, too, have to understand personally what is going on in the trenches.
Can non-educators do good work in education? Of course, but outliers don’t make good policy.
Bloomberg’s choice of Black sparked loud criticism from parents, legislators and others. The New York City chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council -- made up of the leaders of the Presidents Councils from each of the 38 districts in New York City -- passed a resolution calling on Bloomberg to appoint a schools chief who doesn’t need a waiver. Meaning someone with education experience.
The city’s public advocate, Bill de Blasio, has written to Bloomberg calling for a public forum on the controversy, saying, “[We must] give public school parents and all New Yorkers a clear understanding of how she will grapple with the tremendous challenges facing the city’s public schools.”
The panel Steiner appointed includes a number of people who have strong ties to Bloomberg.
Louise Mirrer is chairwoman of the New York City Leadership Academy for which Bloomberg helped raise millions of dollars, Michael Barbero wrote in The New York Times, and the mayor has donated from his personal fortune $475,000 to a museum that she runs. He gave her an award two years ago for her work in increasing accessibility for people with disabilities.
Mirrer told Barbero that her panel membership is not relevant to her Bloomberg connections.
At least three members of Steiner’s panel have worked for Bloomberg’s Education Department, though Steiner said that was a positive rather than a negative, presumably because they have a firsthand look at the challenges and an understanding of how to deal with them.
Steiner might ask himself why it is a good thing for panel members to have education experience but not the chancellor.
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| November 22, 2010; 1:18 PM ET
Categories: Educational leadership | Tags: cathie black, cathleen black, chancellorship, david steiner, joel klein, new york city chancellorship, new york city schools, schools, steiner, steiner panel
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