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Commissioner names panel of experts to screen new chancellor

State Education Commissioner David Steiner has named the panel of education experts that will help him decide whether to allow magazine executive Cathie Black to become the next schools chancellor.

Without a background in education, Black needs a waiver from the state that will let her bypass the prerequisites: that she have a degree in education and several years of teaching behind her. Though the final decision rests with Steiner, the panel will play a role in reviewing the city’s case for why Black is qualified and making a recommendation.

Reviewing the list of panel members, New York University Professor Pedro Noguera said the commissioner had covered his bases.

“Steiner’s aware that this is very controversial,” Noguera said. “So if you think about it, instead of just him making the decision he can say, ‘Look, I got a group of very reputable people in education who agreed with me.'”

“That doesn’t mean he’s going to agree with whatever they recommend but he’s got a good group to back him up,” Noguera said.

That group includes the superintendents of two of the big-five school districts in New York State: Rochester and Yonkers. These school leaders will have the job of deciding whether Black can do without the same set of credentials that they had coming in.

Rochester schools Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard is also among three panel members who have worked for Chancellor Joel Klein. The other two are Andres Alonso, now superintendent of the Baltimore public schools, who served in the early years of Klein’s tenure as chief of staff for teaching and learning, and Carnegie Corporation vice-president Michele Cahill, who was Klein’s senior counselor for education policy.

Cahill is someone who knows what Black is going through. In 2004, Klein wanted to promote her to the position of deputy chancellor, but state education officials warned him that if he asked for a waiver, they wouldn’t give it to him. State officials said that only chief school officers were eligible for the waiver, but deputies would have to meet the requirements, which Cahill couldn’t.

The panel also includes two people coming from teachers colleges. Susan Fuhrman is the president of Teachers College at Columbia University and Ronald Ferguson is a Senior Lecturer in Education and Public Policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Harvard Kennedy School.

None of the panel members has a Masters in Business Administration or a background in business, though Alonso did work as a corporate lawyer in the 1980s.

State officials have not set a deadline for the panel to make its decision.

The full list is below:

Screening Panel

Andres Alonso

Dr. Alonso has served as the CEO of Baltimore’s schools since July 2007. He earned a B.A. Arts in history and English from Columbia University in 1979; a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1982; a Master of Education from Harvard in 1999; and a Doctor of Education from Harvard in 2006. Dr. Alonso worked as a corporate lawyer at Hughes, Hubbard & Reed in New York City from 1982 to 1984; a special education and English as a Second Language teacher in Newark, N.J. from 1986 to 1998; a superintendent’s intern in Springfield, Mass. from 1999 to 2000; chief of staff for teaching and learning at the New York City Department of Education from 2003 to 2006; and as Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning in New York City from 2006 to 2007.

Jean-Claude Brizard

Mr. Brizard serves as the Superintendent of the Rochester City School District. He holds a Master’s Degree in School Administration & Supervision from the City College of New York and a Master’s Degree in Science Education from Queens College, as well as a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from Queens College. Prior to coming to Rochester, he served as a Regional Superintendent, supervising more than 100 K-12 schools serving over 100,000 students in three New York City geographic districts. Previous positions in New York City included: Executive Director for Secondary Schools; Region 8 Instructional Superintendent; high school principal; high school physics teacher; and junior high school science teacher. Mr. Brizard is a graduate of the Superintendents’ Academy of the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems. He is also an Executive Committee member of the American Association of School Administrators.

Michele Cahill

Michele Cahill is vice-president for national programs and director of urban education at Carnegie Corporation of New York where she leads the Corporation’s strategy to meet the twin goals of contributing to societal efforts to create pathways to educational and economic opportunity by generating systemic change across a K-16 continuum, and to create pathways to citizenship, civil participation and civic integration in a pluralistic society. Prior to rejoining Carnegie Corporation in 2007, she held the position of senior counselor to the chancellor for education policy in the New York City Department of Education. Ms. Cahill was a member of the Children First senior leadership team that oversaw and implemented the full-scale reorganization and reform of the New York City public schools. She played a pivotal role in the development of Children First reforms in secondary education, district redesign and accountability, new school development, and student support services. Ms. Cahill has a B.A. in Urban Affairs from Saint Peter’s College, a Masters of Arts in Urban Affairs from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and she pursued doctoral studies in social policy and planning at Columbia University where she was a Revson Fellow.

Ronald F. Ferguson

Dr. Ferguson is a Senior Lecturer in Education and Public Policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Harvard Kennedy School. He is also an economist and Senior Research Associate at the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy. He has taught at Harvard since 1983, focusing on education and economic development. His research and writing for the past decade have focused on racial achievement gaps, appearing in a variety of publications. His most recent book is Toward Excellence with Equity: An Emerging Vision for Closing the Achievement Gap. He is the creator of the Tripod Project for School Improvement and also the faculty co-chair and director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University. Ferguson earned an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and Ph.D. from MIT, both in economics.

Susan Fuhrman

Dr. Fuhrman currently serves as President of Teachers College, Columbia University. She earned a B.A. in History, with highest honors, from Northwestern University in 1965; an M.A. in History from Northwestern University in 1966; and a Ph.D. in Political Economy from Teachers College, Columbia University in 1977. Dr. Fuhrman’s research interests include state policy design, accountability, deregulation, and intergovernmental relationships. She has also conducted research on state education reform, state-local relationships, state differential treatment of districts, federalism in education, incentives and systemic reform, and legislatures and education policy. She is currently a co-principal investigator of a large project that studies high school response to accountability pressures and use of instructional assistance in six states.

Louise Mirrer

Dr. Mirrer has served as President and CEO of the New York Historical Society since 2004. She holds a Ph.D. in Spanish and Humanities from Stanford University and has over 20 years experience as an academic administrator, most recently as Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at CUNY. Dr. Mirrer has published widely on language, literature, medieval studies, and women’s studies, both books and articles, in Spanish and English.

Bernard Pierorazio

Mr. Pierorazio is Superintendent of the Yonkers Public Schools, the fourth largest district in New York State. Prior to becoming Superintendent, he served as the Deputy Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, and Principal of Saunders Trades and Technical High School. Mr. Pierorazio is a graduate of the Yonkers Public Schools District, continued his studies at Central Connecticut State University, the College of New Rochelle, and Iona College, earning degrees in History, Special Education, and Administration and Supervision.

Kenneth Slentz

Mr. Slentz is the Associate Commissioner for the Office of District Services for the New York State Education Department. In that capacity, he oversees education design and technology, including the build out of the Board of Regents virtual school initiative; school district and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) support and coordination, including the coordination of professional development; and school safety. In his 17 years in public education, Mr. Slentz has served as a teaching assistant, teacher, curriculum director, principal and school district superintendent. He holds an AAS in Liberal Arts from SUNY Cobleskill, a B.A. in Political Science from SUNY Geneseo, and an M.S. in Education from SUNY Oswego.

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