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Council should approve chancellor: Weprin, Avella

Council should approve chancellor: Weprin, Avella
State Sen.-elect Tony Avella (l.) and state Assemblyman David Weprin plan to sponsor legislation that would require a public hearing and a vote by the City Council before a candidate could become schools chancellor. Photo courtesy of David Weprin’s office
By Anna Gustafson

State Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) and state Sen.-elect Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said this week they plan to introduce a bill that would require a future nomination of a city schools chancellor to be confirmed by a majority vote of the City Council after a public hearing.

The proposal stemmed from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent decision to replace outgoing Schools Chancellor Joel Klein with Hearst Magazines Chairwoman Cathie Black.

“There was such a lack of transparency,” Weprin said of the appointment. “The public didn’t have an opportunity to hear from the nominee or to testify.”

Weprin and Avella are expected to introduce the bill when the state Legislature reconvenes in January.

“Unfortunately, we can only go forward,” Avella said. “It can’t be retroactive. It won’t affect Cathie Black’s appointment as chancellor.” The legislation would require a public hearing before a chancellor could be approved. In addition, a majority vote by the Council would need to occur before a chancellor could be ushered in as the leader of the city’s public school system.

“This would give the public the chance to testify on the nominee, to hear from the nominee and allow parents, teachers, academics, community leaders, civic leaders and anyone else an opportunity to get involved in the process and hear from the nominee,” Weprin said.

Queens and city politicians, including Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), have criticized the way Bloomberg chose Black and said it was a process during which he did not consult city legislators, educators or parents.

“I was not happy with this nomination,” said Stavisky, chairwoman of the Senate’s committee on higher education. “It was clouded in secrecy. There was no national search. The fact that she lacked experience was very, very troubling.”

Bloomberg announced last month that he had picked Black to replace Klein, who resigned after eight years with the Bloomberg administration. Black is expected to resign from her position as chairwoman of Hearst Magazines before she begins her new job in January, a DOE spokeswoman said.

Because she had no background in public education, state law mandated that Black had to receive a waiver from state Education Commissioner David Steiner. Steiner granted the waiver, though with the condition that she appoint a chief academic officer with a background in education. Black tapped city Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky for the position. Polakow-Suransky has spent time as a teacher and principal.

“I still believe Black should not be chancellor,” Avella said. “Clearly the mayor should have some control over the [city] Department of Education, but there needs to be more oversight by the City Council and state Legislature.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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