In defending his selection for schools chancellor, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has called Cathleen P. Black, a publishing executive with no education experience, “exactly the right person for the job” and suggested that her skills as a manager were unrivaled.
Ms. Black, however, was not the first person the mayor asked to take the position. Mr. Bloomberg tried to persuade Geoffrey Canada, the prominent Harlem education leader and a friend of the mayor, to be chancellor, but Mr. Canada turned it down, according to two people with direct knowledge of the discussions.
The two people did not want to be identified because Mr. Bloomberg has sought to keep the process private.
Mr. Bloomberg has repeatedly declined to offer details about whom he consulted during the search process, or how he ultimately settled on Ms. Black, the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines.
But the revelation suggests that Mr. Bloomberg conducted a wider search than previously thought, and that he may have been seeking a more traditional candidate in hopes of avoiding the withering criticism that has accompanied Ms. Black’s appointment.
Ms. Black’s opponents have seized on her lack of familiarity with the public education system and the fact that during a 40-year career, she has rarely gone outside the publishing world. She attended parochial schools, sent her own children to private boarding schools and holds no graduate degrees.
Mr. Canada, by contrast, has gained international notice as the leader of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a network of charter schools renowned for its cradle-to-college approach. He grew up in the South Bronx and holds a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
In a brief interview, Mr. Canada did not dispute the suggestion that he had been offered the job but declined to comment about it. He said Mr. Bloomberg had solicited his advice about a month before the mayor announced the selection of Ms. Black in early November.
Since Mr. Bloomberg announced his selection of Ms. Black, her candidacy has come under attack, and he has faced criticism for conducting a highly secretive search process.
In response, the mayor has emphasized Ms. Black’s time as a leader of a large corporation, saying the school system needed a nimble cost-cutter. Mr. Canada, by contrast, has spent much of his life working at the helm of community organizations.
It is unclear how many people Mr. Bloomberg consulted about the chancellorship, or whether he offered the job to anyone else. His aides have said that he spoke with many people about the position.
One of those individuals was another prominent education leader: Michelle A. Rhee, the tough-talking former chief of the Washington school system. In an interview, Ms. Rhee declined to elaborate on her conversations with the mayor, and she refused to say whether she had been offered the job.
Mr. Bloomberg’s choice of Mr. Canada suggests he was looking, at least initially, for a tough-minded reformer who could claim success in the education arena. While Mr. Canada’s program is considered a national model, some say the results should be more pronounced, given that he vastly outspends traditional public schools.
I don't believe that Bloomberg offered the job to Rhee.
Yes, it's true that she is a national figure and a card-carrying member of the ed deform movement.
But Bloomberg is looking to soften his image with women before he runs for president in 2012.
It is true that according to pre-D.C. mayoral election polls, Rhee was quite popular with white women.
But women of color, particularly black women, positively despised her.
She had a 28% approval rating among black women.
She wouldn't do for Bloomberg what he needs done - continue the BloomKlein reform agenda, but put a happier face on the school closures, the firings, the layoffs etc.
And Rhee wouldn't take this job either. She wants to cash in on her service and notoriety. Three years in NYC battling the union on seniority, tenure, school closures, teacher data reports and the like would leave her pretty beaten up. The press is a LOT tougher here than in D.C. Yes, it's true that the Post would carry her water, as would the newspaper editorial writers, but the news sections wouldn't.
I guarantee you that we would have learned more about the sexual scandals surrounding her fiance Kevin Johnson, the charter school teachers who alleged improper contact from KJ, and the story that Rhee tried to bribe the women to go away quietly.
Think the Daily News wouldn't like to publish a bombshell story about that?
You know they would.
Also, it would be hard for Rhee to cash in on her ed deform notoriety and make appearances on Oprah after having been revealed as an enabler of her fiance's sexual harassments and/or assaults.
No, she knows it was best she heads to wingnutwelfareland now and starts cashing in with the Broad/Gates Foundation money.
As for Canada, it's possible that Bloomberg could have offered him the job, but there is no way that For-Profit Geoffrey would have taken it.
First of all, it would have meant a huge cut in pay.
Second, it would have meant a lot more scrutiny of his business dealings and his relationship to his hedge fund criminal friends.
Geoffrey likes the spotlight, yes, but he doesn't like the spotlight too close.
A few months ago when the NY Times published a negative story about his HCZ, he was up at the Daily News op-ed pages in hours with a pushback editorial.
But that negative story in the Times would be nothing compared to the spotlight that would be put on the HCZ if he took the chancellor's job.
Can you imagine him trying to claim class size doesn't matter as chancellor when the class sizes at the HCZ are 15 and he refuses to raise them?
Can you imagine him claiming school facility conditions don't matter when he takes $25 million from Goldman Sachs to build new schools?
There is a lot more hypocrisy from For-Profit Geoffrey, but you get the point.
I think this story is Bloomberg asking his pal Geoffrey to leak the story not-so-secretly (two people with direct knowledge of the conversation are the source for the story - that sounds like Bloomberg AND Canada) to take the heat off the Cathie Black appointment.
Black has been a disaster so far, saying the stupidest shit you have ever heard, though you can read some of it here, here, here, here, and here.
But as for the reality of the story - that Canada or Rhee could have been chancellor - yeah, right.