Why Cathie Black?
November 10th, 2010

Those of us who were around in the days before mayoral control of school days remember the endless fighting and jockeying that went on as the mayor and Board of Education selected a new schools chancellor. Now the chancellor springs fully grown from the mayor’s brain.

Few people aside from Mayor Michael Bloomberg know what kind of a search he conducted before giving the job to publishing executive Cathleen Black. But it seems pretty clear she would have had a hard time weathering the public vetting that chancellor hopeful used to receive. Some would argue that’s all to the good — that the system runs better with the mayor getting his woman. Others view it as cronyism masquerading as reform.

As to Black herself, no one expected her selection — few knew the job was even available. Many commentators were stunned by her lack of experience in — or even fleeting contact with — the public schools (Klein at least went to one). Others applauded her management expertise.

A roundup follows:

Google’s going to be kept very busy today. Who is she? And why was she picked to be New York City schools chancellor?”
–Scott Stringer, Manhattan borough president, in the Daily News

Absolutely I was surprised. But you know, Im sure it has all the good reasons to it. At the heart of mayoral control, I truly believe in allowing the mayor to make his choices. So we go from there.
–Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the state Board of Regents, in City Hall

More comments — pro and con — after the jump

The total lack of any education credentials, three kids who went to boarding school, to be polite, little experience with life in the South Bronx and East New York, and probably has not seen too many Tyler Perry movies, not exactly a prime candidate for New York City Schools Chancellor.
–Ed in the Apple

Her status as an education outsider … will serve her in good stead.
New York Post

By picking someone even more part of the corporate world than Klein, Mayor Bloomberg is signaling that the battle against the entrenched interests of the teachers union will continue, along with a push to make the public school system more accountable for results: Assess and evaluate, reward achievement, shed dead weight, just as on Wall Street and in midtown. Bloomberg could have picked someone with teaching experience, or a former administrator. But by going with someone with no apparent public-sector experience, Bloomberg indicates that he intends to play by his own rules.

— Alexander Nazaryan, Daily News

Out of the frying pan and into the fire, I guess. … Obviously [Bloomberg] doesn’t get the message. … We need someone there who understands how to develop curriculum, who understand parental involvement, who understands what principals, teachers and students go through on a daily basis. In my opinion a magazine publisher doesn’t cut it.
— State Sen.-elect Tony Avella, in The Observer

By our lights, it’s just fine that Black, a successful media executive, will bring private-sector perspective and high management skill to the task for bettering the minds of 1.1 million students. She comes from a culture that demands innovation and performance. And wouldn’t that be a good thing to have in the city’s 1,400 schools. …

It took courage to select a chancellor from outside the education establishment, and one open to attack for having sent her own children to boarding school…. [Black] is an accomplished woman with a proven ability to reshape large organizations. And — this was a key premise motivating Bloomberg’s choice — as a business leader, she sees the challenging new economic landscape for which young people must be prepared.
Daily News

I suppose it makes a certain amount of sense that the current pro-testing, anti-teacher educational fads be administered by executives connected to corporate media, where such nostrums are wildly popular. The irony, though, is that if you had to pick one institution that is a bigger failure at educating the public than the school system, you’d have to pick the industry that Black comes from and [outgoing Chancellor Joel] Klein is going home to.
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

Naysayers are already naysaying and poking fun at Black … and while we’re surprised that she was chosen for this gig, we’re reluctant to second guess her obvious talent and ability before shes been tested. Let’s see what she can do.
— Justin Fenner, Styleite

We don’t have an educator with the top of the line credentials that our students deserve. It’s a smack in the face to the 1.1 million kids in the school system and their parents.
— State Sen. Bill Perkins in the Huffington Post

It is unfortunate that once again, the mayor has chosen someone with no educational experience, except for sitting on the board of a charter school with teacher attrition rates of 42 to 71 percent, and a student suspension rate of 62 percent.
–Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters, in the Huffington Post

Black is a tough and slick saleswoman; her greatest assets, from Bloomberg’s perspective, are her background in marketing and her charisma. “This is about a charm offensive,” says one mayoral intimate. “Cathie represents the opportunity to build consensus with all the players, and to win back all the people Joel has alienated.”
New York Magazine

I really do understand the value of having a schools chancellor with a strong business management background. I do think, however, that anyone chosen to be schools chancellor who has no experience in education should be required, if he or she wants the job, to spend a year in the classroom first. … My wife, who teaches in one of the toughest school districts in New York City, tells me that she and her colleagues are demoralized by this appointment because they feel like, yet again, they will be led by someone who doesnt really understand not simply the nature of education, but the actual work of being a teacher.

[Black] should not be in there. This city has some great educators in the black and Latino community. It’s time to consult those educators.
–City Councilmember Charles Barron in The Observer

Granted, [Bloomberg] doesn’t want anyone from the education establishment, but couldn’t he find someone from education? Or from New York? … Black moved here from Connecticut a while back, and since then she’s become part of the city’s social and corporate elite, but that’s a far cry from the public school universe. And of course — this goes without saying in New York — her kids went to private schools. Is it never, ever going to be possible to put someone in charge of the city’s schools who has at least some history with them?
— Dan Collins, Dan Collins, Huffington Post

By on November 10, 2010, 4:28 pm
In category: Gotham City | 8 Comments »

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8 Responses to “Why Cathie Black?”

  1. Gerry Segal Says:
    November 10th, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    I taught in the south Bronx 45 years ago. Same problems...different players. Nobody cares about the kids. This song I wrote in 1966 best states what I feel.


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