Parents and civil rights advocates gathered on the steps of the Department of Education headquarters yesterday to protest Mayor Bloomberg’s appointment of publishing executive Cathie Black as the next schools chancellor.
Their objections to Black’s appointment were two-fold: firstly, that Black lacks the educational experience necessary to lead the nation’s largest public school system; and secondly, that the mayor that the mayor chose a friend and kept the selection process hidden from the public and much of his staff.
“This unlimited claim that Cathie Black is the best is unsupported and untested in any school setting, in any classroom, by any experience on her part as a teacher or a supervisor of teachers,” said Michael Meyers, the executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition. “Cronyism is not a synonym for the best.”
Civil rights attorney Norman Siegel said the secrecy around Black’s selection has put the public at arm’s length from their schools and government. Bloomberg’s announcement last week shocked even senior education department officials and City Hall has refused to say who, if anyone, was consulted in the decision
Siegel and the protestors called on State Education Commissioner David Steiner to deny the waiver Black needs to take the job because of her lack of education credentials. As of this morning, more than 7,400 people have signed an online petition urging Steiner to deny the waiver.
“We know and we have numerous examples: this is not a done deal,” Siegel said.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said that she expects the city to file its application for Black’s waiver with the state this week, but did not know exactly which day.
Patrick Sullivan, the Manhattan borough president’s appointee to the citywide school board, has said that he believes the law requires the board to file the request for a waiver, rather than the mayor’s office. Sullivan said that he plans to raise the issue at tomorrow night’s meeting of the board, known as the Panel for Educational Policy.