Less than five months into her term as chancellor of New York City schools, Cathie Black has left her post.
The former magazine executive was a controversial choice as chancellor, having little education experience. In fact it seems that voters spent more time deliberating over her lack of qualifications than she spent at her post.
NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg championed Black’s appointment, stating that her business acumen would be crucial in dealing with the school system’s current budget crisis. Unfortunately, it seems that Bloomberg was wrong. At least he was able to admit it. “I take full responsibility for the fact that this has not worked out as either of us had hoped or expected,” he said.
According to the New York Times, Black stepped down at Bloomberg’s “urging.” Despite this, he had little to say on the matter. “We decided that it was time to move forward,” he said. “It is what it is.”
Cathie Black will be replaced by Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, a former Board of Education president.
Walcott has a tough job ahead of him. NYC schools are plagued with problems from academic failures to financial duress. At least he can expect to have more public backing than Black. A recent poll showed that only 17 percent of voters thought Black was doing a good job in her post. She has been booed and dismissed by administrators, teachers and parents.
Black’s “lack of experience wasn’t the killer; what really puzzled people was her lack of interest in public schools, period,” wrote the Daily News’ Joshua Greenman. “To lead New York City’s public schools, you need firm footing in a range of issues from curriculum to teaching methodology to labor rights to child psychology to charter schooling. Black, appointed by a billionaire businessman, reeked of dilettante perfume.”
Walcott, on the other hand, is Black’s opposite. Huffington Post New York editor Dan Collins, described him as “The anti-outsider.” Having once taught in the city schools and visited countless schools, Walcott’s experience in education is expansive.
So, was Mayor Bloomberg wrong to support a “dilettante” business executive in taking up a huge post in the education world? Personally, I can see where his head was. Bloomberg thought that bringing in a breath of fresh air, a new perspective and a business mind, could help the struggling city school system. He needs results, and that is what businesspeople are about.
However, education involves intricate, sensitive and complex problems. Perhaps he could have found a happy middle – Black was too far to one end of the spectrum. I am glad that Bloomberg was able to admit his failure and act quickly, because ultimately it was the children who were suffering.
As Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said, “It’s been clear for months now that, like the Titanic, this ship has been sinking with more than one million school children on board.”
Photo credit: Flickr - lancmanoffice