The mayor of New York, Mayor Mike Bloomberg had a decision to make this week. The Chancellor of the New York City school system, Joel Klein, resigned. Bloomberg, who knew in advance of the resignation did a search-unbeknownst to most-and decided to hire Cathie Black as Mr. Klein’s replacement.
Who is Cathie Black? Well, she is the chairperson of Hearst Magazine Corporation, a major publishing conglomerate. She has two daughters and is married to an attorney. She has never been involved in the education field, never dealt with a union, never even stepped inside a NYC public school before this week’s appointment and sent her own to children to private school. With this in mind, what makes Ms. Black qualified to run the largest city school system in the US? Well, she socializes with the Mayor. Apparently that’s all that’s needed.
The biggest urban school system in the country is facing a lot of problems right now. Several schools that were described as underperforming have been shut down over the past few years. While test scores overall have gone up, the overcrowded classes and underperforming students still represent major problems, and as such while Klein has done a decent job, there is still a lot of work to be done. The singular question then is this: Is Cathie Black the best person to keep the school system heading in the right direction?
Now, personally, I have no idea if Ms. Black will be a good chancellor. I do know that by any standard you choose to utilize, she is unqualified for this job. She is replacing the longest serving Chancellor in Joel Klein, and the man who is credited with ‘raising’ the levels of NYC public schools. That last part is debatable, but what isn’t debatable is that on the surface this is a political appointment and Ms. Black, with no relevant experience to her credit, is already in over her head.
Mike Bloomberg has done some good things for New York City. He has also let his own agenda and ego run amok at times, such as his move to reverse term limits for elected officials. The people of New York City voted on two occasions in favor of term limits, but the billionaire Bloomberg, who apparently feels no one else can do the job that he is doing, made a back room deal and got it removed in time for the last mayoral election.
The movement to institute term limits is based on making sure our elected officials don’t think of their office as a throne and a perpetual right. The mayor didn’t see it that way, clearly didn’t think the rules applied to him and circumvented them because; in his words ‘it was in the best interest of the city.’
The term limits issue came up for vote again in the last election. It was reaffirmed by a 3-1 margin. The people of New York spoke again.
I hope this time when Mayor Mike see’s the next stop is his, he gets off the train. And maybe take his buddy Ms. Black with him.