Bloomberg has the right to appoint Cathleen Black Schools Chancellor
We may not like it, but the appointment of Cathleen P. Black to become Schools Chancellor boils down to an example of how mayoral control works.
Bloomberg was the first to be named in the reorganized education system in which the Mayor of New York was given direct control of the Board of Education. Key words here are again “given direct control of the Board of Education.”
We elect the mayor, and the mayor decides what is best for the system. If we don’t like the antics of that mayor---we the public always have the option of not renewing the mayor’s contract on Election day. (Of course this doesn’t currently apply to Bloomberg. He is in his third and final term)
But here we go again. There’s always so much theatrics of how everything works in NYC, that it is amazing anything gets done. There’s growing public outrage, some Council members, and the United Federation of teachers that are up in arms over Bloomberg naming Black, who has no experience in education and then adding fuel to the fire is the fact her own kids didn’t attend public school. Black has served as a top executive at Hearst Magazines but does she have enough experience to justify leadership of the largest public school system in the country?
For the record, my 30 year opinion on this is that there are very few people including educators that meet such a requirement. New York's school system is so large, political landmines are everywhere with almost each and every decision. New York is very, very unique.
Black needs a waiver from the State Education Department because she’s not a licensed superintendent. Bloomberg counters her experience as a corporate manager qualifies her to run the schools. For the record, according to the State Education Law, the candidate should have a valid superintendents’ certificate, have completed certain graduate level work and have taught for three years.
Naturally, critics have slammed the mayor for “abusing the power of mayoral control” and critiqued his methods. They (the critics) want state Education Commissioner David Steiner to veto Bloomberg’s choice for schools chancellor by denying the waiver. The same waiver that Joel Klein received. (Klein at least attended the NY Public School system)
Perhaps a national search for chancellor would have been a good thing, at a minimum perhaps improved public relations with parents and educators, but under the current system, a national search is not legally mandated. Of course there that sentiment out there that seems to come from the mayor that Business leaders can solve everything, but the reality is they can not.
Bloomberg in his letter to Albany for Black to receive the waiver said the following:
Bloomberg likened the school system to a corporation with a work force of 135,000 that was in need of a chief executive.
“The challenging issues facing the New York City schools demand a bold thinker who is not afraid to champion new ideas,” Mr. Bloomberg wrote. “Ms. Black is widely recognized as a visionary.”
Let’s really look at the entire issue. A resolution by about 13 upset council members reads as follows:
“Whereas, While the New York City school system is complicated to manage, it cannot be run solely as a business, and we cannot forget that education should be about the children, their families and communities;”
“Whereas, The people of New York City want a Chancellor with experience, character and qualifications that are well suited for the education of children and not merely the management of a corporation; now, therefore, be it resolved, that the Council of the City of New York calls on the New York State Education Commissioner to deny Cathleen P. Black a waiver to become the next Chancellor of the New York City public school system.”
But the city has already been down the road of professional educators with the necessary background criteria and where did that get the NYC public school system. Name the Chancellor of recent memory, and I’ll throw status quo right back at you. Quinones,Alvarado, Brown, Fernandez, Cortines, Crew.
We should not protest just for the sake of protesting----and we shouldn’t be angry with Bloomberg because he did exactly what the legal system says he can do. Granted, perhaps the mayor didn’t have to do this in exactly in the manner that he did, but the law is set up where the buck stops with the mayor.
Do we really want to go back to the days where a board selects the chancellor, the mayor doesn’t like the person selected, and nothing gets done.
I’m not pretending to have the answer, but someone has to shake up the education system.
Look at the statistics under the professional educators, (and this is not a knock on them because most do amazing work) but we are looking at kids dropping out at record numbers. Joel Klein was an outsider as well with no education experience and arguably graduation rates went up some 20 percent., You may not feel that’s a big enough accomplishment, but try telling that to the parents of one of the kids that’s recently graduated, and is now doing well in college.
The resolution by some members of the council does make some valid points, like:
“Whereas, New York City’s children are the future of our City and receive only one shot at their childhood education and deserve the best we can give; and
Whereas, Many of New York City’s students in economically depressed neighborhoods have limited options and it is critical that we address their needs with an open mind and in a caring school system;”
But are we really saying that given Ms. Black’s background she can have no connection with kids in economically depressed communities.
I’m not saying parents should not have a voice, and ultimately it may be decided that Ms. Black does not have enough qualifications for the job.
I’m just wondering out loud here. What if, for example as the first woman chancellor she cares in ways that has never been done before and there is true growth in the system.
What if, she has record success.
The UFT claims by conducting his selection process for the chancellor in secret, and withholding from the public the most basic information on that process, Mayor Bloomberg has thwarted the intent of mayoral control.
Are they right?
It’s not for me to decide, but for each resident of this city to form their own opinion.
What I do know is at the end of the day we are talking about Bloomberg’s legacy, and do we really believe he would blow his lifetime legacy on someone he doesn’t feel that could deliver? To serve for 12 years while flirting with running for president again and then go down as a possible failure because of his schools chancellor?
No matter what any of us may think is behind all of this, the fact of the matter is the mayor has the right to appoint whoever he wants, and if we don’t like that, then each and every one of us has an obligation to not just complain, but to write letters to the Mayor, letters to Albany, and more importantly, we have an obligation to fight to change the law again.
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