Unqualified: Cathie Black Should Step Aside

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[Black Star News Editorial]

Deservedly, opposition continues to mount against Mayor Michael Bloomberg's new appointee to head the New York City public schools system.

There have already been several protest events by activist, some parents and some teachers; the protest will go to the very doorsteps of the man who will determine the appointee's fate, when a petition is delivered to his residence, organizers say.

Mayor Bloomberg appointed Cathie Black, who made her reputation in the publishing business world to succeed Joel Klein, as chancellor of the New York City schools system, heading the Board of Education. Black, like Klein before her, is a major executive. Neither had the background or educational qualification to head such a huge schools system.

New York's is one of the largest education system in the world with, 1.1 million students, over 1,600 schools and a $23 billion budget. The system has had choking bureaucracy, which the mayor has tackled and fought to streamline over the years. The mayor gained direct control of the schools system through legislation, granting him the power to appoint the chancellor. This newspaper supports mayoral control; however, not the way it's turned out--we insist that there be more well defined roles with real involvement and power for parents as well as teachers. Maybe a future mayor will do a better job at it.'

While Bloomberg has praised Cathie Black for her professional managerial skills, opponents raise a major legitimate issue; would someone with no medical background be allowed to run a hospital?

Why would Mayor Bloomberg then appoint Black to head the schools system? Could the mayor really have that much disrespect to the public education system to appoint someone so patently unsuited for the post? Why not a teacher or educator with background in the system and intimate knowledge of the challenges faced?

If Bloomberg thinks Black's skills are unmatched as an administrator, he could have explored creating a position, maybe as a deputy chancellor, to tap into her skills, while reserving the top post of Chancellor for a truly qualified appointee.

Critics of the mayor say he previously ignored opposition to his appointment of Klein, who also was not qualified and needed a waiver by the New York State Schools Commissioner. Under the Klein regime, critics contend, the schools were turned into mills where people were taught how to take tests; rather than institutions where they could learn productive skills to operate in the modern global economy.

What's more, classrooms remain grossly overcrowded, teachers underpaid and overworked, with inadequate resources and lack of equipment in labs.

The curriculum doesn't include sufficient programs in the arts, music, and recreational activities, these critics contend. What's more, these critics, including Charles Barron, a New York City Councilmember, deride the mayor for not consulting with Black and Latino officials and educators; the schools system is populated by primarily African American and Latino children.

Cathie Black, like Klein before her, will need a special waiver by the New York State Education Commissioner, David Steiner, to be able to take the post because she also lacks even the educational credentials required.

Barron and others have urged the commissioner to reject the waiver--and on Monday opponents plan to deliver to Steiner's apartment at 87 Street and Second Avenue, 10,000 signatures reportedly by public school parents, also calling on the New York State schools commissioner Steiner to reject a waiver for Black.

The mayor should have known better. He should withdraw the appointment of Cathie Black or she should do the right thing and step aside.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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