UPDATE: Black heads to school after getting chancellor nod

Black is in.

After weeks of speculation and debate about whether Cathie Black should be the next city Schools Chancellor, the state Education Commissioner granted Black the waiver she needed for the position on Monday, November 29, but that doesn’t mean everyone is happy about it.

Rob Caloras, President of Community District Education Council (CDEC) 26, which covers neighborhoods in northeast Queens, was very succinct when discussing his biggest concern for Black’s new job.

“That she has no clue,” said Caloras, who has held his position with the CDEC for about eight years. “I hate to break it to him [Mayor Bloomberg] but her experience does not go to facing government unions to facing cutbacks when you have all these mandates and all of these things.”

When Bloomberg tapped Black, the publisher of the Hearst Magazine group, to succeed Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, many local elected officials, parents and teachers questioned Black’s qualifications because she lacked any substantive professional education experience.

Bloomberg has been steadfast in his defense of Black, but many people, including the state education panel advising State Education Commissioner David Steiner, urged him to deny Black a waiver she needed to become Chancellor.

However, last week, an idea was floated that Black should have a chief academic officer and senior deputy chancellor as her second-in-command – someone who could help her with her transition. The compromise was to have current deputy chancellor for accountability and performance, Shael Polakow-Suransky, fill that role for Black. That seemed to clear the way for Steiner to grant Black the waiver.

“Despite her lack of direct experience in education, I find that Ms. Black’s exceptional record of leading complex organizations and achievement of excellence in her endeavors, warrant certification for service in the New York City School District where she will have the support of a team of experienced educators, including a single person serving as Senior Deputy Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer,” Steiner wrote in his 12-page decision.

The morning after the state granted the waiver, Black and Bloomberg greeted students, teachers and parents at a public school in the Bronx – something she will continue to do during the upcoming weeks and months. Black will officially take over as Chancellor on January 3.

“I’m a big listener,” Black told reporters outside of the school on Tuesday. “I want to learn. I want to hear their concerns one-on-one as much as I can.”

Even her critics like Caloras said that since the state granted Black the waiver, there’s no use fighting about the issue.

“We’ll be inviting her out to our Council,” he said. “I hope she accepts.”