Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement last week appointing Hearst executive Cathie Black as the city’s new schools chancellor drew a lot of skepticism — and ire — from critics who think the magazine publisher isn’t qualified enough (or…at all) for running the city’s public schools. Last week, a state senator-elect was the first to try and block Black’s appointment by urging state education officials to deny her a waiver that she needs to take the job. Now he’s not alone.
In yesterday’s paper, the New York Times said another local official – – Robert Jackson, the the head of the City Council’s education committee — likewise wrote to David Steiner, the state’s education commissioner, urging him to deny Black’s waiver:
“Cathie Black meets none of the professional experience requirements, apparently satisfying only the undergraduate graduation standard,” the letter said. “Ms. Black’s marketing expertise and personality may have made her a superlative corporate leader for the publishing industry, but I do not see evidence of experience in education that a chancellor needs to guide our nation’s largest and most complex public school system.”
Black needs the waiver to because of a state law that requires three years’ experience in schools and “a professional certificate in educational leadership,” the Times said.
Among Black’s other detractors? More than 7,600 people who have signed an online petition objecting to her appointment, the United Teachers Federation, and a school board member who calls Bloomberg’s hire “simple cronyism.”
UFT President Michael Mulgrew, meanwhile, said Bloomberg “abused his mayoral authority” by appointing Black and the Daily News adds that a “group” of city council members are planning to introduce a formal resolution against the state waiver this week.
City Hall has seemed somewhat dismissive of the criticism. Bloomberg defended the appointment last week by characterizing the post as a “management,” rather than educational or instructional, job and dismissing critics as more managerial than educational and dismissing critics for having “no understanding whatsoever of what the job is.”
And today, a DOE flack called the complaints “unsurprising” because “these are individuals who have fought almost every reform we’ve put in place.”
Black herself has been completely silent. On today’s City Room blog, the Times recounts stalking the suddenly media-averse media executive from her Park Avenue penthouse to Hearst Tower, noting that she brushed off the reporters’ questions, save for one:
“Are you excited for your new job?” one of the reporters asked. Without turning, midway up the escalator, Ms. Black finally answered a question.
“Very,” she said.
At least someone is.
UPDATE: A reader tells us state assemblyman James Brennan, who represents Flatbush, Kensington, Park Slope and Windsor Terrace, has also sent a letter today to the state education commissioner, opposing Black’s appointment.
“Whatever other talents Ms. Black possesses, she has no education credentials and has never worked in the public sector,” Brennan wrote. “We need a chancellor who can hit the ground running and who comes well-steeped in an understanding of how education policy is experienced ‘on the ground’ by the principals, teachers, families and most of all the students for whom it is ultimately intended.”
Read Brennan’s full letter here: