The Challenge Facing Cathie Black

When Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Ray Kelly police commissioner, he picked a man with law enforcement experience. When he appointed Salvatore Cassano the fire commissioner, the mayor picked a man who had worked his way through the ranks in the FDNY.

But when he named Cathie Black to be the new city schools chancellor, he appointed a woman who had no experience running an education system, a school or a classroom. Black is chairwoman of Hearst Magazines. She will be the head of the nation’s largest school system with a budget of $23 billion. The city Department of Education has 135,000 employees and 1,500 schools.

We wonder why the mayor did not bring in a leader in the education field. If he could not find a candidate in the city school system, he had the option of searching the nation for someone who had succeeded in turning around a struggling urban school system.

From what we have heard, the opening was never publicized. There was no review committee. The mayor made this decision on his own. In the end, he chose a business leader whose children go to a private school in another state and have never attended a public school.

Since it appears Black will be running the city’s schools, we hope the following issues will rank high among her priorities:

1. Standardized Tests: Teachers have long complained that they spend too much time preparing students for standardized test and too little time teaching.

2. Charter Schools: Hopefully, Black will find a way to encourage the growth of charter schools without taking away from the public schools.

3. School Safety: Schools in the toughest neighborhoods say they cannot afford metal detectors and cannot afford not to have them.

4. Sports and the Arts: We hope Black will recognize the importance of sports, music and the arts even in a time of tight budgets.

5. Rubber Rooms: Teachers facing disciplinary proceedings often get paid to spend months — even years — doing nothing in what have been called rubber rooms. This is a waste of money.

6. Teacher Tenure: Black will need to work with the teachers union to restructure the tenure process so it works in the best interests of students and teachers.

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