Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turning education over to businessmen. They will do to education what they have done to the economy...

Mayor and State Reach Deal on a Schools Chief

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg reached a deal Friday to save the tottering candidacy of Cathleen P. Black to be the next chancellor of New York City schools, agreeing to appoint a career educator who started as a classroom teacher to serve as her second in command.

As a result, the state education commissioner, David M. Steiner, has agreed to grant Ms. Black, a media executive, the exemption from the normal credentials required by state law for the position, according to a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations.

The move was a significant concession by Mr. Bloomberg, who has often resisted efforts from outside City Hall to meddle in his affairs.

The mayor’s hand was forced on Tuesday when Dr. Steiner questioned her readiness for the position. Ms. Black, the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, has spent a lifetime in the media business, does not hold any advanced degrees and has had little exposure to public schools.

The controversy over Ms. Black, 66, had become a liability for Mr. Bloomberg, and a poll released on Tuesday showed that a majority of New Yorkers did not think Ms. Black was qualified to serve as chancellor.

After several days of talks with state officials, Mr. Bloomberg agreed to create the position of chief academic officer to oversee curriculum and testing at the city’s Department of Education. Under the deal, that job would go to Shael Polakow-Suransky, a former principal of a Bronx high school who is a top official at the city’s Department of Education.

But exactly how much authority Mr. Polakow-Suransky, 38, will wield is unclear. A job description prepared by the city said he would have “the broadest scope for the exercise of independent initiative and judgment” and listed 25 duties, including many that would normally fall to the head of a school system. But Mr. Polakow-Suransky will still report to Ms. Black, who is accustomed to setting the agenda in the rough-and-tumble world of corporate culture.

Ms. Black and Mr. Polakow-Suransky have met several times over the past week to discuss how they will divide authority.

Ms. Black is scheduled to take office Jan. 1 after the resignation of the current chancellor, Joel I. Klein. She will oversee the nation’s largest school system, with 1.1 million children, 135,000 employees and 1,600 schools.

Natalie Ravitz, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said on Friday, “As an experienced C.E.O., Ms. Black recognized the need to have a senior deputy with specific expertise in academic matters.”


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