Although we were not happy with the way in which Mayor Michael Bloomberg selected Cathie Black to be the next city schools chancellor, we believe state Education Commissioner David Steiner has made the right decision to back Black’s nomination. The children would not have benefited from a power struggle among the mayor, the state Legislature and City Council members.
Steiner’s approval was contingent on the appointment of an experienced educator to serve as a deputy chancellor. That position will be filled by Shael Polakow-Suransky, a member of the DOE, who will serve as the chief academic officer.
This makes sense. Black is an accomplished administrator who is more than capable of running a large organization. She has proven that she can handle a large budget and knows how to build a management team.
But she has no experience running a school system, especially one serving more than a million children. She will benefit from a trusted adviser with an education background.
We agree with state Sen. Malcolm Smith, who last week said, “While I am concerned that she does not have a background in education, I am also encouraged that she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from corporate America that will benefit the Department of Education ....”
Teachers in the city’s middle and high schools are frustrated by the time they have been forced to spend preparing students for standardized tests. This is not why they became teachers.
Once her appointment is approved, Black would do well to follow the advice of Diane Ravitch, a leading education historian who spoke last week at St. John’s University.
Ignoring the politics of the appointment, Ravitch had some practical suggestions for Black. She urged the next chancellor not to repeat the mistakes made at a number of high schools in Queens, including Jamaica High School. Moving smaller schools into existing school buildings, she said, does not help and only exacerbates problems.
Black and Bloomberg should spend time with Ravitch.
©2010 Community News Group
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