The eight-member panel appointed by State Education Commissioner David Steiner voted against recommending a waiver for Cathie Black, Mayor Bloomberg’s preferred replacement for Chancellor Joel Klein. Four voted against the waiver, two voted in favor, and two voted “not at this time.” It is unknown how each panelist voted at press time.
Commissioner Steiner gave the panel various options, and noted his personal preference: wait to grant the waiver until the city also appointed a top educator with some independent powers.
In response, State Senator Eric Adams and Assembly members Hakeem Jeffries and Marcos Crespo called on State Education Commissioner David Steiner to adhere to the requirements of NYS law and to the recommendation of his own panel of experts to deny Cathie Black a waiver for the post of NYC Public Schools Chancellor.
“New York State law requires that school superintendents have a minimum of three years teaching experience and do graduate work in ‘school administration.’ The mayor’s nominee, Cathleen Black, satisfies neither prerequisite,” said Adams. “State law enables the Commissioner of Education to grant a waiver in the case of ‘exceptionally qualified persons’ whose ‘exceptional training and experience are the substantial equivalent ‘ of certification in teaching. Commissioner Steiner personally selected the members of an advisory panel; these were his choices. They have voted to recommend that he deny the waiver.”
Adams called call on the Commissioner “to heed the advice of his own panel and deny a waiver to Cathie Black. She has neither the requisite education credential nor the support of the waiver panel.”
Assembly member Hakeem Jeffries said, “The decision to reject the waiver application submitted by Mayor Bloomberg is a victory for the more than one million children in the New York City public school system. While some progress has been made, the public schools remain broken and someone who lacks educational experience is not the relief pitcher our school children need at this time.”
The individual selected as NYC Public Schools Chancellor must be the most appropriate person for this uniquely demanding position. The Commissioner of Education must not issue a waiver for Chancellor to Cathie Black, an individual who neither meets the educational requirements required by State law nor has the support of the ‘panel of experts’ hand-picked by the Commissioner of Education to advise him,” said Assemblyman Marcos Crespo.
Commissioner Steiner had named an eight member panel of educators to assist making the decision. The panel was chaired by Dr. Susan Fuhrman, president of Columbia University’s teachers College. Other panelists include Dr. Andres
Alonzo, CEO of Baltimore’s schools; Jean-Claude Brizard, Superintendent of the Rochester School District; Michele Cahill, Vice-president for national programs of urban education at Carnegie Corporation of New York; Dr. Ronald F. Ferguson, Senior Lecturer in Education and Public Policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Harvard Kennedy School; Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New York Historical Society and former executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at CUNY; Bernard Pierorazio, superintendent of the Yonkers public schools; and Kenneth Slentz, Associate Commissioner for the Office of District Services for the New York State Education Department.
Three of the panelists have worked for Chancellor Klein. Andres Alonzo served as Klein’s chief of staff for teaching and learning. Michelle Cahill was Klein’s senior counselor for education policy. Jean-Claude Brizard also served during Klein’s tenure. Commissioner Steiner admitted he did not vet panel members for their relationships to Bloomberg.
Cathie Black is Mayor Bloomberg’s second choice for chancellor requiring a waiver. Outgoing Chancellor Joel Klein had six months classroom teaching experience. Klein was a prominent lawyer who led an anti-trust case against Microsoft. By contrast, Cathie Black has a bachelor degree and had served as a board member of a Harlem charter school.
Senator Eric Adams and Assembly member Marcos Crespo are submitting legislation that would amend state law to require a “concurrent resolution” by the Senate and Assembly for any Commissioner’s waiver of requirements for persons who do not meet educational or professional prerequisites. “My legislation S8512) will amend the Education law to restrict the ability of the Commissioner of Education to issue a certificate for Superintendent or Chancellor to persons who do not meet educational or professional requirements for the position,” Sen. Adams stated.
Marcos Crespo will introduce concurrent legislation in the Assembly. “It is imperative that any decision on the issuance of a waiver for someone seeking
‘exceptionally qualified person status’ undergo a careful and comprehensive review process to ensure that the selectee is the most qualified individual available.” said Crespo. “A compelling alternative argument is required in support of anyone who has no background in or commitment to public education; the elected representatives of the people of New York State must review any such
selection. Requiring concurrent resolution of the Senate and Assembly for waivers will bring a thorough and essential review process and a necessary transparency. The individual selected as Chancellor must be the most appropriate person for this uniquely demanding position.”
Adams’ legislative move is the latest in a growing crescendo of voices against Mayor Bloomberg’s nomination of media personality Cathie Black as NYC’s next schools chancellor. Elected officials, parents, and concerned community activists have spoken out against Black. An online petition has generated more than 10,000 signatures. Educators see the appointment of Black as a
particular affront, as they are all required to have a master’s degree and certification. One educator asked, “How will Black be able to access the performance of principals if she doesn’t know what the job entails?”
Congressional representatives Yvette Clarke and Ed Towns weighed in, calling for “more qualified officials to run NYC’s school system.”
“Many of my constituents have expressed considerable misgivings about the appointment of Mrs. Cathie Black as Chancellor of the NYC school system. Just like many of my constituents, I am concerned that Mrs. Black’s lack of education experience makes her unqualified for the position. For this reason, I would not support the NYS Education Commissioner in granting a waiver that would allow Mrs. Clarke to become the NYC Chancellor,” said Congresswoman Yvette Clarke. “As a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, I will continue to fight for our city’s schools, students, teachers, and administrators. We must ensure that our children, who are our future, do not continue to be victims of the ever increasing achievement gap and are able to receive a proper education that will prepare them to lead this nation. That means having our most qualified individuals run our educational system. Mrs. Black’s lack of experience with the complexities of our school system and her lack of background in public school education, will compound what she has identified as a significant learning curve. What our children really need and deserve is someone who will come in and hit the ground running.”
“I am deeply concerned over what appears to be a lack of a publicly announced search for a candidate to fill the position of NYC Public Schools Chancellor. While Mayor Bloomberg has a right to choose anyone he wants, the parents and
children of our city have a right to a process that is not only transparent, but one that invites all qualified applicants to respond,” said Congressman Ed Towns. “Cathie Black may be a great manager who knows how to balance a budget, however our children also need a Chancellor that has a serious working knowledge of the complexities of education and what it takes to teach our children. If
all it takes is a business background – and no experience whatsoever in education to be considered for NYC Schools Chancellor, what kind of message are we sending to students who endeavor to major in this field of study in our nation’s colleges and universities? For the above mentioned reasons, I do not support a waiver from the NYS Education Commissioner to allow Cathie Black to become the next NYC Public Schools Chancellor.”
In the face of mounting opposition to Black’s appointment, the Bloomberg administration had been scrambling to find support. Talk show host Oprah Winfrey expressed support for Black. Oprah publishes O Magazine, one of a number of national publications under the media umbrella Cathie Black managed. Mayor
Bloomberg submitted a six-page letter in support of Black’s nomination to State Education Commissioner David Steiner.
The process of waiving Cathie Black’s required credentials continues. There is no specific timeframe in which the Commissioner and must make a decision. However, Joel Klein is scheduled to step down at the end of the year. Presumably, a decision will be made before then.
At press time, there was no response from Mayor Bloomberg on the panel’s decision to deny a waiver to his nominee for Chancellor, Cathie Black.