With the mayoral election decided, it is time to speculate on Joel Klein’s successor. Yes, even with Mayor Bloomberg’s victory, the current Chancellor will soon be history.
This prediction probably assures Klein’s job into the next century (with serially-extended term limits and a hefty mayoral investment in cryogenics, it could happen!) but eight years seems enough for the Chancellor, who has a history of short-term jobs and immediate prospects as an internationally-acclaimed education consultant. Also, believe the rumor that Bloomberg traded the Chancellor’s head for the Legislature’s renewal of Mayoral Control and that a new Chancellor will help Bloomberg counter charges of third-term lethargy.
So, probably cursing the chances of anyone listed below (and I deny that intent), who are the likely candidates to become the next Chancellor of the nation’s largest public school system?
Paul Vallas: Vallas has headed school systems in Chicago, Philadelphia, and the Louisiana Recovery School District, where he now works. A champion of innovative school governance and data-based accountability, he is a nationally recognized education manager. Vallas was Chicago’s budget director before appointment to his schools post by Democratic Mayor Richard Daley, so seems like Bloomberg’s kind of rough and ready technocrat, much in the Klein mold. Additionally, as an outsider, he would reinforce the Mayor’s message of third term renewal.
Christopher Cerf: Fresh from his stint as the Bloomberg campaign’s education point man, Cerf was until recently a trusted Deputy Chancellor under Klein. He is a former executive at Edison Schools and an attorney with superintendent credentials. Like Bloomberg and Klein, he is often condescending and feisty. State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch once described him as “the A-word” (pausing to explain she meant “arrogant”). Ethical questions have been raised concerning Cerf’s handling of his Edison stock while working for the DOE and soliciting a charitable contribution from a DOE contractor.
Eric Nadelstern: Nadelstern is a long-serving New York City educator who has risen in the DOE ranks to become Chief Schools Officer, supervising all district superintendents and student support organizations. Formerly the well-respected principal of International High School, he was the original head of Klein’s “autonomy schools” initiative which morphed and grew into today’s Empowerment Schools. Nadelstern has been a loyal lieutenant to Klein, with deputies from his earlier days at Tweed now dotting a number of leadership posts. This is one reason that tea-leaf readers view him as the favorite, should the Mayor choose an insider.
Jean-Claude Brizard: Another life-long educator (not necessarily an advantage), Brizard is the former principal of Westinghouse High School and an expert in one of the third term’s main goals: improving Career and Technical Education, as well as, more generally, secondary education reform. As a Haitian-American, Brizard is the only person of color on this short list. Like Cerf, Brizard is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy, which applies corporate strategies to school district management. He held a number of senior DOE posts, including Executive Director of Secondary Education and, for a short time, Superintendent of Region 6 but seemed to fall out of favor and is currently superintendent of the Rochester, N.Y., Public Schools. This, though, could be an advantage as one of only two listed candidate (the other is Vallas) who has run a big city school district.
Robert Hughes: Hughes is a dark horse but might have his eyes on the prize. He is currently President of New Visions for Public Schools, a widely admired (especially by the powerful Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) not-for-profit that catalyzed the push for New York City’s small high schools. Hughes was also a plaintiff’s attorney at the beginning of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity law suit that substantially increased State aid to the public schools. If influential members of the New Visions board back Hughes, he could be the city’s next Chancellor.
Assuming Bloomberg is a lame duck, his choice of Chancellor — or a decision to keep Klein — is especially hard to predict. Since the selection of Chancellor need not be approved by the City Council or other body, the choice is largely the Mayor’s alone. So choose from the above or write someone in: The betting window is now open to name the next person responsible for educating over a million of our kids.
Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that Robert Hughes is seeking state certification. He is not.