As you know, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has appointed Cathleen Black as the new city schools chancellor to succeed Joel Klein. This selection was shrouded in secrecy and as far as known she was the only candidate.
Such a unique status is not a reflection of her abilities for this job but — dare I say — her being a part of the Bloomberg social and business network. The mayor’s choice is a corporate executive and magazine publisher, immersed in media experience without any education experience. Not surprisingly, neither she nor her children attended public school.
In fact, she has acknowledged having zero knowledge of the public school system. The mayor has chosen her for her management abilities, yet she has no experience with negotiating unions or working in the government. As such, she has no management experience related to being the chancellor of our schools. Clearly, her background does not qualify her to lead a school system of 1.1 million students.
Given her lack of qualifications, pursuant to state Education Law Section 3003, she must receive a waiver from state Education Commissioner David Steiner. According to the law, a waiver is available to only those “whose exceptional training and experiences are the substantial equivalent of such requirements and qualify such persons for the duties of a superintendent of schools.” Based on Black’s background, it is clear she is not eligible for this waiver and her request must be denied.
Our current chancellor also required a waiver due to his failure to meet the law’s requirements, but at least he had attended city public schools and actually taught in a city school at one point in his career. As you know, during his terms many changes were wrought to our schools and his impact will be debated for many years.
What stands out to Community District Education Council 26 is that during his reign, school organizations changed four times in an effort to prevent the city Department of Education from being held accountable, standardized test scores and graduation rates were manipulated, principals were held accountable for things they had little control over, teachers were blamed for every problem in the education system, parents were prevented from being meaningful participants in their children’s education and students continued to suffer with crowded classrooms and evaluations that obsessively rely on standardized tests, doing too much standard test preparation work and learning by rote about a narrowed curriculum.
To prevent this corruption of the education system, we must have a chancellor who is not only a good manager, but an educator. If the mayor would conduct an actual search beyond his comfort zone, a person with such qualifications can be found. Only with a chancellor with these qualifications will proper learning return to our schools.
Robert I. Caloras
Community District Education Council 26
©2010 Community News Group
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