Three Reasons Why You Should Be Upset About Cathie Black, New NYC Schools Chancellor


Cathie Black, the former chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, was just appointed to one of the most powerful positions in New York City by Mayor Bloomberg. To massively understate the case, this is a big deal. Here’s why you should be concerned about it:

1. She’s a Former Magazine Executive. Cathie Black has no formal expertise in education. Just look at her bio. She’s a Trinity Graduate who has written books and served as an executive at many companies and has lots of honorary degrees! That makes her about as much of an expert in education as, say, this blogger. Also, does it concern anyone that she’s worked in an industry that’s been in a perpetual mode of capsizing for the last decade? Most worryingly, she’s responsible for a lot of things, including the hiring of the people who educate children in New York City. Which is why you should be concerned that…

2. The Mayor’s Plan For The School System Is To Run It Like A Corporation, Apparently. Forget that the now-former school chancellor is leaving to work for a multinational corporation, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Mayor Bloomberg just noted the reasoning behind hiring Black in his press conference: “Cathy is a world-class manager, and she is uniquely qualified to take us in the direction people keep talking about: jobs, jobs, jobs. That is something Cathie Black knows about, as much as anybody in this room.” The creation and staffing of jobs is important, but when the future of New York City is on the line, and the young impressionable minds of children are the variable, it’s not exactly hiring for a bottling plant, unless that’s the approach being taken (which, evidently, it is). Getting the right people into the right jobs is — many would argue — more important than having them staffed en masse. So how do you get the right people into the right teaching gigs? You hire experts. And according to Mayor Bloomberg, one of his experts for hiring Black was…

3. Michael Mulgrew, Meeting #1. Mulgrew is the President of the United Federation of Teachers, a powerful union with a loud, loud voice, one most recently heard battling Bloomberg and former chancellor Joel Klein on whether or not to release “Teacher Report Cards.” He was apparently the first person Black met with in New York City’s education world, according to Bloomberg. Given the opportunity to read into this, we will: it was a move to appease Mulgrew into believing that he and the union had some influence in the decision, or were at the very least part of the vetting process. Yes, the President of the Teacher’s Union and the chancellor of the D.O.E. should work together well, despite that never having been the case with Klein. Yet, many are arguing that the power structure of teacher’s unions are a large part of the problem with public education. This makes it almost sound as if New Yorkers were shortchanged for someone who might be better qualified for the job, yet in more politically opposition to Mulgrew (and thus, more resistance from teachers on his/her potential appointment). We deserve this fight more than we’re already getting it with Black, in one sentence alone.

Yes, we know. This is a knee-jerk reaction. It’s been less than an hour. And we have yet to see what Black will do. But on the surface, the hire looks absurd. Surely, bringing someone with different experience and “fresh” perspective to any massive problem sounds like a great idea in theory. In practice, however, it often simply doesn’t resonate the same way. At the very least, not in this instance.