The time for questioning her credentials is over. Cathie Black became the new city schools chancellor last week and we wish her well. The challenge she faces is enormous. The schools already under-financed will face budget cuts as the mayor and City Council look for ways to balance the city budget.
On her first day, Black visited one school in each borough. It was a symbolic gesture but also served to show that she does not believe she understands the complex problems confronting the city Department of Education. Hopefully, she also saw that there are a tremendous number of teachers and administrators who have devoted their lives to helping New York City’s children. This is something we are not certain her predecessor grasped.
In Queens, Black visited a high school created for students who are chronically truant. The school for truants is run by the DOE and the SCO Family of Services, a nonprofit. She appeared to be impressed.
We hope she will soon find the time to visit Jamaica High School and other non-boutique schools on the DOE’s hit list. We are confident she will conclude that the DOE’s plan to close these schools and reopen them under another name does not make sense. She needs to understand that spreadsheets, SAT scores and graduation rates only tell part of the story, and she needs to understand the role these schools play in their communities.
Black should look for a way to encourage the growth of charter schools without taking resources away from traditional public schools. This will not be easy. She will have to find ways to deal with the growing number of children whose parents are undocumented immigrants.
As we have said before, we hope the new administration at the DOE will recognize the importance of high school sports and the value of bringing back the shop class to every high school. Throw away the liberal arts cookie cutter and encourage each child to develop his or her talents.
All told, this is an exciting time. In recent years, the DOE appeared stuck in the bureaucratic mud. We welcome the new leadership and expect fresh ideas for facing the most important challenge New York City faces.