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Legal challenges to Black appointment could come within days

Although publishing executive Cathleen Black cleared the last formal hurdle to her appointment as chancellor on Monday, opponents of her appointment aren’t giving up yet.

More than 100 people converged on the steps of the Department of Education’s headquarters at Tweed Courthouse this evening — the largest protest yet against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s choice for chancellor — and legal action to block the appointment may be coming within days.

Roger Wareham, an attorney working with City Councilman Charles Barron and the Freedom Party, said he plans to file suit against State Education Commissioner David Steiner, who this week waived the legal credential requirements that Black needed to become chancellor.

Wareham said that the lawsuit, which will likely be on behalf of four parent plaintiffs, would be filed “in the next few days,” and will accuse the commissioner of abuse of power, arbitrary and capricious actions and abuse of discretion.

The group that organized the rally, the Deny the Waiver Coalition, is also working with civil rights attorney Norman Siegel to explore legal options to block Black from assuming office in January.

And rally organizers said that they planned to increase the pressure on the mayor to simply withdraw his appointment of Black.

Barron, who led the rally, said that protests are planned outside of Tweed for each day next week, followed by protests the following week outside of the residences of Black, Bloomberg and Steiner. Legislation has already been introduced in Albany by Assemblymen Hakeem Jeffries and Marcos Crespo to change the waiver process, and at least one other legislator is preparing similar legislation.

Black had visited Tweed earlier in the day, but left before the protest started, a DOE spokesman said.

City officials have repeatedly characterized the opposition to Black’s appointment as politically-motivated and driven by opponents of mayoral control, and some observers have argued that the opposition is limited to a few outspoken education activists.

And while many of the speakers at today’s rally were veterans of protests against Bloomberg’s education policies, many were parents or teachers who said that they found Bloomberg’s appointment of an education outsider to be an insult to their years of service in the classroom and the graduate degrees they are required to hold for their positions.

“We have doctorates,” yelled two Brooklyn teachers standing in the crowd. “She won’t be our boss.”

“In every area of the city, teachers are being laid off, one by one by one,” said Donald Hudson, the pastor of a Long Island church. “And they are qualified.”

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