Business Exec Black Doesn’t Cut it in NYC Schools

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


Robert O.
Robert O7 years ago


Randi Felix
Randi Felix7 years ago

wow thank you for this post seriously

Jessica G.
Jessica G7 years ago

thank you

Ruby W.
Ruby W7 years ago

Education isn't something you pick up on the job, certainly not at the level Ms. Black was appointed to. Without a real background on the subject, how could she ever figure out what to do? I feel sorry for her, but I am also sick of people thinking education is a "no-brainer". :(

Jerry B.
Jerry B7 years ago

Not doing the job, then you have no right keeping it enough said!

Linda B.
Linda Querel7 years ago

"Michelle Rhee, the 'know-it-all' former supt of DC public schools should be hired by the US military. Perhaps she can use her great wisdom to help them end wars that last 8-10 years."

How nasty and sarcastic Shar F. Love to know what is your job?
No one can know it all but you.

Linda B.
Linda Querel7 years ago

Well she was doomed from the start is right. The teachers booing??? Lovely. The education empire does not like anyone who is not one of them having anything to do with education. Any "outsider" would be treated as a piranha and made to fail.
Yes it is a business, too important and too big to fail and when students are not learning - it's failing.

Robert Tedders
Robert T7 years ago

@Doyal D.: Hey, at least a Dentist has actually been through school, and maybe even helped teach other dentists - 's more than Black seems to have had.... :-(

Lillian Martin
Lillian Martin7 years ago

She was doomed to fail.

Kris Allen
Kris Allen7 years ago

Saying that schools should be run like businesses just means that whoever said it cannot fathom the complexity of education. So they simplify it for themselves and sell everyone else on the idea. Education is not a business. Its mission should not be to make money. People need to think before they start throwing time and money at the "education as business" model.