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Klein reflects on his tenure: "We should have been bolder"

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Chancellor Joel Klein declined to give any public advice to the mayor’s choice for his successor, publishing executive Cathie Black. The outgoing chancellor said that while he has been meeting with Black each day, most of that time has been spent explaining what he has already done, not telling her what she should do in the future.

But a few minutes later, Klein told a group of local and national educators that he did have one piece of advice for the next chancellor: push his reforms even further.

As he often does, Klein invoked Sir Michael Barber, an education aide to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair known for his impatient approach to school reform. Barber’s instructions, Klein said, were to “be bold.” Klein said that he wished he had followed that advice more closely.

“We should have been bolder,” Klein said. For example, Klein said, he wishes that Department of Education officials had started their experiments with online and personalized instruction like the School of One and iZone programs earlier than they did.

“My successor will have plenty of opportunities” to be more aggressive in bringing change to the school system, he said.

Klein cited some of the challenges that his successor will face, the most challenging of which may be large looming budget cuts from the state. Shortly after Klein gave his remarks at the Urban Education Summit at Columbia University, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a preliminary budget that plans for more than 6,100 teacher layoffs next year.

But Klein also warned that the next chancellor will need to do a better job at pitching Bloomberg administration reforms to the public.

“I really wish I had figured out better ways to build more support,” Klein said. He added that he believed he could have built that support not by changing any of his policies, but by communicating them more clearly to the public.

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