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Posted at 7:38 PM ET, 11/ 9/2010

Bloomberg errs again with NYC public schools

By Valerie Strauss

There is unfortunate symmetry to today’s news that Joel Klein had resigned as New York City Schools Chancellor today to join Rupert Murdoch’s outfit, and that he was being succeeded by Cathie Black, chair of Hearst Magazines.

Klein, who is becoming an executive vice president for News Corp., had taken the job as chancellor without any experience in education.

Now, Black, a former USA Today publisher who has been serving as chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, is becoming chancellor with no educational experience. The woman responsible for publications including Esquire; Good Housekeeping; O, the Oprah magazine ;and Popular Mechanics will run New York City’s public schools.

That’s twice that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has deluded himself into thinking that success in business management is easily transferable to success in the public education system.

Klein had worked as head of the publishing giant Bertelsmann and as a federal anti-trust prosecutor when he took the job as head of the 1.1 million student-system in 2002. (He had to get a waiver from the state government to take the job because he hadn’t been trained as a professional educator. Black will need one too). Accustomed to breaking up monopolies, he apparently viewed the public school system as a monopoly and he worked to bust it up -- attacking teachers unions and pushing for the expansion of charters, publicly funded schools that are not part of the traditional school bureaucracy.

It didn’t really work out so well for Klein.

Though he and Bloomberg talk about the Klein tenure as a success, the chancellor did nothing to narrow the gaping achievement gap, and it was recently learned that standardized test score improvements that the mayor and the schools boss had touted for years were phony. State officials recently revealed that scores had been inflated, and thousands of parents who thought their children were performing on grade level learned that they weren’t.

Bloomberg had the chance with Klein’s resignation to seek community input into the selection of a new chancellor but instead he chose, again, to ignore the people who elected him.

American schools today need better-trained teachers, principals who themselves have been exceptional teachers, and superintendents who understand that public education isn’t a business but a civic responsibility, and who know that great teaching can’t always be reduced to data points.

At a press conference with Black and Klein on Tuesday, Bloomberg said of his new chancellor: "There is no one who knows more about the skills our children will need to succeed in the 21st century economy."

I’d bet a nice dinner that even Black knows that isn’t true. Bloomberg shouldn't get away with such nonsense.


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By Valerie Strauss  | November 9, 2010; 7:38 PM ET
Categories:  School turnarounds/reform  | Tags:  bloomberg appoints black, cathie black, chancellor and black, chancellor black, chancellor klein, hearst magazines, joel klein, klein and murdoch, klein quits, klein resigns, klein to news corp., mayor bloomberg, michael bloomberg, new york city chancellor, new york schools, news corp., nyc chancellor, nyc schools  
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Comments

Bloomberg erred, but it's not too late to tell him (and Commissioner Steiner) that we want a qualified leader: http://www.petitiononline.com/DenyWaiv/

Posted by: ThePhysicsGuy | November 9, 2010 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Great article! On October 22, 2006, an article appeared in U.S. News that exposed how Mayor Bloomberg chose Joel Klein as the first NYC Schools Chancellor under mayoral control in 2002.

For example, writer Alex kingsbury wrote that Bloomberg said, "when I needed a chancellor, I went down my address book from A to Z, and I wrote down the names of anybody who I could conceivably think of somebody saying "oh he or she should be chancellor" so that I would give everybody a fair shot. And I looked down the list, and there was just no question. Right away, Joel Klein stood out. I interviewed maybe 10 people. The other nine-their names were in the paper the next day. Klein's name wasn't in the paper. That's one of the reasons to pick him."

Did he go down his address book again when he picked Cathleen Black? And is this what mayoral control of the public schools in NYC mean to Mr. Bloomberg? We all need to ponder his method and aske ourselves does it make sense that a 1.1 million inner city school system with 1,400 schools, over 80,000 teachers, and other personnel among the largest in the nation, the top leader is chosen in this way? It's troubling. If Mayor Bloomberg picked his financial advisor in the same way would he still be a billionaire?

Though the vast majority of the student population in the NYC schools composed of African-American and Puerto Rican children from low socio-economic backgrounds and impoverished neighborhoods, don't these children deserve the best leaders well-prepared through education and certification too as one would expect to find in other school districts around the country?

And Mrs. Black certainly has a wealth of executive background in business and the media, but it's not suitable or appropriate for the NYC schools Chancellor. For this reason Commissioner Steiner should not waive any of the requirements.

Mayor Bloomberg shows through his choice of Mrs. Black as NYC Schools Chancellor that mayoral control in the NYC schools should be reconsidered. And such an important decision as picking a school chancellor is not a matter of one individual going through an address or telephone book but a more serious process involving all of the stakeholders inside, outside the school including the educators and parents. It's not a hocus-pocus decision.

And what about vetting a diverse pool of candidates? A city school system with such a large enrollment of Latinos, African-American, Asian students and other groups reflected in both its student body and staff behooves that members from these communities should be given opportunities to be candidates and interviewed for the chancellor of schools as well. After all isn't it all about closing the achievement gap among minority students.

Thus, to leave such an important decision to one person looking through a phone or address book is troubling. Our children deserve highly qualified school leader. Isn't this one of the requirements of the Race to the Top for teachers?

Posted by: Saison | November 10, 2010 1:48 AM | Report abuse

After the humiliation of testing fraud and misrepresentation that NYC Public Schools faced this year, and the very real prospect that the NAEP results for the Spring of 2011would further pull the pants around his ankles, this businessman has made the value bet to cash in ... and in a hurry.

Michelle Rhee actually became a leader in a pathetic sense; the first to "cut and run" midway through a school term when her personal fortune and future prospects "trumped" the welfare of beleaguered urban school children. Both Rhee and Klein have claimed these children as their Raison du Vie.

Both of these "free agents", are absolved by the completely independent and faithfully journalistic Bloomberg News, who did disclose that mayor Bloomberg "is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News and parent Bloomberg LP." The Washington Post rarely reminds readers of even more complicated conflicts of interest.

As a parent of a DCPS student, I am not encouraged by the prospect of an interim Schools Chancellor who has so fully embraced the mantras of the business model of education reform promoted by Chancellors Klein and Rhee.

We need to acknowledge that the economic interests that brought them to power are still alive and well. And there is no doubt that Klein and Rhee will continue to be effective advocates for the populist policies that private sector education service providers need to access the vast economic potential of educating our precious children.

Posted by: AGAAIA | November 10, 2010 2:38 AM | Report abuse

Saison is Maria Rosa. I live in the City of Buffalo, New York. I'm a certified School Attendance Teacher and School District Administrator.

If Mrs. Cathleen Black is given a shot at one of the top education jobs in New York State, I would like to be considered as well, though Mr. Bloomberg is not going to find my name in his address book. He might first try the on-line application website of the NYC Department of Education.

I've worked in public education for 15 years never given the opportunities Mrs. Black has been given as a white female and it is time a Puerto Rican woman is considered too. As Mayor Bloomberg said, "she had a career."

In fact, so much talk about closing the achievement gap among minority students why is it that we are overlooked for opportunities?

I've applied for hundreds of jobs in educational leadership around the country in school districts with high enrollments of Latinos and minority students some of the postings asked for diverse candidates with bilingual skills. I've yet to be picked up by any school district, including Buffalo City School District even NYC still no offer. Why?

Yet, in the Buffalo City School District a report released last May indicated only 21% of English Language Learners graduate from school with the state average for the group at 55% most of these students are Puerto Ricans and the overall graduation rate is 44%.

So, I ask myself why? I'm overlooked for jobs?

And unless we deal with the question I'm asking here, the academic achievement gap widens.

I'm a blogger and have an education blog at : http://theinsurgentteacher.blogspot.com

Posted by: Saison | November 10, 2010 3:11 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: shankartripathi85 | November 10, 2010 4:06 AM | Report abuse

We need to remember that the Ed. Establishment brought the NYC, DC, and many other big systems to their needs. They (used to) know it all. Klein connected with all of the stakeholders; of course he did not please them all, including the teachers. But he was fighting Change Resistor Big Randi and her Rubber Rooms. The RRs personify what the teachers were doing to NYC schools -- thinking only of themselves.

Klein harnessed a lot of what is good and has floated a sinking ship and pointed it in a new direction.

The head of any large system does not have to be a professional educator. They can be part of the senior staff, and better be good in any case. The top person has to be political and connected with all stakeholders and willing to take make tough decisions that are not about education, per se, but about the future of our kids, the spending desires of the taxpayers, etc.

So, stop piling on Black. She has more than enough credentials to extend the good things that Klein got going.

Posted by: axolotl | November 10, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Axolotl - you are often cited by other bloggers here for not having real data and information to back up your statements. Now is your chance! Give us ten things that Klein "got going" that were so "good".

Posted by: 1bnthrdntht | November 10, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Sarah,

Looks like 1bnthrdntht has given you some homework. I'll be watching and waiting with anticipation. I'll even research it as well so I can evaluate your performance.

Posted by: DHume1 | November 10, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Bloomberg needs to put the children first, instead of business. Or he needs to be fired.

Posted by: educationlover54 | November 11, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

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