Friday, December 03, 2010

The Mayor and the Chancellor

Kudos to David Steiner for suggesting  a compromise re. Cathie Black that might work.  The NYT editorialized in favor of it:


November 24, 2010

The Mayor and the Chancellor

Mayor Michael Bloomberg scored a huge victory for New York City public education in 2002 when he won control of the school system, but parents and state officials often complained that outside voices were not heard. On Tuesday, a panel of state educators essentially upbraided him for failing to listen to those who wanted a professional educator as the system's new chancellor.

If the mayor wants to retain his choice, Cathleen Black, a media executive, he should accept the compromise being offered by state officials — to appoint a chief academic officer as Ms. Black's right hand.

Ms. Black has a distinguished record in magazine and newspaper publishing, but she has spent very little time in a public school — her own children went to a private boarding school — and has no professional experience in education. Mr. Bloomberg has dismissed concerns about her résumé by suggesting that all the school system needs is a smart and talented manager.

The message seems to have rung sour. Chancellor Joel Klein, who also had no educational experience, won the benefit of the doubt as the first chancellor under mayoral control and as a product of city schools, but many parents, community leaders and state officials are unwilling to set aside their skepticism again.

The state education commissioner, David Steiner, has made a reasonable suggestion. He would consider granting Ms. Black the waiver she needs to take the job if the mayor also appoints a professional educator as the system's chief academic officer. Mr. Klein originally had a principal deputy, but for most of six years has relied on a kitchen cabinet of multiple deputy chancellors, none of whom have complete control over academics.

With substantial budget cuts coming from the state, the mayor wants a proven manager like Ms. Black. That makes sense. But it also would make sense to have a strong deputy guiding life in the city's classrooms, reporting to Ms. Black, and from there to the mayor, and ultimately to the voters.

State officials are particularly concerned about how the city will handle the nearly $300 million from the federal Race to the Top program, which requires serious and complex reforms in curriculum and testing. The city is also mired in stalled contract talks with the teachers' union and needs to negotiate on a teacher evaluation system that takes student achievement into account.

For the mayor, who does not take rebukes lightly, the political reality is that he has to accept the compromise or restart the search for a consensus chancellor.

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