David M. Steiner, New York State’s education commissioner, expressing deep concerns about the selection of Cathleen P. Black, a publishing executive, to be chancellor of the New York City schools said Tuesday that he would reject her appointment unless an educator is installed to help her run the system.
Dr. Steiner’s move came on the same day that six of the eight members of an advisory panel he appointed to evaluate Ms. Black voted to deny her an exemption from state law requiring certain educational credentials.
The vote and the decision to impose conditions on the waiver request is a sharp rebuke to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has worked feverishly to rally support for Ms. Black, the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, enlisting powerful business and political allies to lobby Dr. Steiner.
According to one member, Susan H. Fuhrman, Mr. Steiner gave the panel three options on whether to recommend a waiver for Ms. Black: yes, no and "not at this time," meaning they would reconsider the application if it were resubmitted with a change such as the addition of a chief academic officer, an official who would have academic and education credentials, as well as autonomy.
Mr. Steiner, who will make the ultimate decision on a waiver, said his own preference was "not at this time," said Ms. Fuhrman, the president of Teachers College at Columbia University.
Four members voted "no" outright, she said, two voted "yes" and two voted "not at this time."Mr. Bloomberg personally wrote a six-page letter to Dr. Steiner last week that cited Ms. Black’s deep management experience to argue why she deserved an exemption.
But believing Ms. Black’s inexperience in education to be a liability, Dr. Steiner intends to deny the mayor’s request unless Mr. Bloomberg agrees to appoint a chief academic officer to oversee teaching, learning and accountability and serve as the No. 2 person to Ms. Black. A spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg, Stu Loesser, declined to comment.
He's not exactly saying no to Bloomberg, but he's not caving either.
But really, it seems like he's saying "no" to Bloomberg without actually saying "no."
Can Bloomberg agree to appoint a chief academic officer to oversee teaching, learning and accountability while Cathie Black ostensibly serves as chancellor and performs ribbon cutting ceremonies, school closure press conferences and other purely ceremonial activities?
It's like saying the new chancellor needs training wheels to ride her bicycle.
Well, if she can't ride the bicycle by herself, why not appoint somebody who can?
It's difficult for me to see how Bloomberg agrees to this.
He has described Black as a "superstar manager," but just what kind of superstar manager needs training wheels and a deputy to handle teaching, learning and accountability?
None that I know of.
Perhaps Bloomberg tries to save some face here and agrees to the deputy for Black, then gets rid of that person a few months down the road and says Black is up to snuff, she doesn't need the training wheels anymore.
Doing that, he would be lobbing a grenade back at Steiner and the NYSED and daring them to withdraw the waiver.
So that is one option.
But I suspect that's a little too complicated.
Probably he will withdraw the appointment and put somebody from the DOE in charge.
Then he'll go hard ass on the school closures, layoffs and other measures to take this loss out on teachers.
Even though the UFT kinda sorta supported the Black appointment.
That seems more likely to me.
But, as they say in the Spiderman comic books, time will tell.
UPDATE: New York Magazine says there are no good options for Mayor Bloomberg now that Steiner's panel recommended no waiver, so Cathie Black might have to fall on her own sword and withdraw from the appointment.
That would still be a loss for Bloomberg, but it would save some face.
Hey - maybe New York Magazine is hiring?