For the second time in three months, New York City officially has a new schools chancellor. State Education Commissioner David Steiner approved a waiver for now-former Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott today, clearing him to run the city’s school system, beginning on Monday.
The decision came quickly on the heels of a panel’s unanimous recommendation yesterday that Steiner grant Walcott the wavier. Walcott has a masters in education, but because he does not have a school superintendents license, he needed the waiver to become chancellor.
Obtaining the waiver was vastly easier for Walcott than it was for his predecessor Cathie Black. Last November, the eight-member panel that considered whether to give Black a waiver eventually voted against it. Four panel members voted against granting the waiver, two voted in favor, and two voted “not at this time.” Steiner told the panel that he also harbored serious doubts about whether Black was up to the task. For several days he agonized over the decision before making a deal with the city that would give Black a waiver on the condition that the mayor appoint a chief academic officer.
In his letter granting Walcott a waiver, Steiner writes that although Walcott does not hold a school superintendents license, he does have other qualifications and experience that make him an appropriate choice for the job. Steinder concludes:
The depth and breadth of Mr. Walcott’s knowledge about the educational issues confronting New York City’s public schools is beyond question. He himself is a graduate of the New York City school system and the parent and grandparent of children who attended the New York City schools, which affords him a personal perspective on how the system operates. He has an impressive record of building coalitions and developing relationships with the community and key stakeholders. He clearly is steeped in policy analysis and the principles of budgeting and fiscal accountability. His resume is one of extraordinary accomplishment and demonstrates strong evidence of outstanding managerial skill in leading complex organizations.
He could not have succeeded in this regard without strong communication skills and the other attributes of a school leader. His background with the Urban League and record of involvement with child welfare services and youth services suggests he has a thorough understanding of the diversity of students and their families and the need to strengthen relationships between schools and the community at large. He has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to mobilize resources to meet the educational and child welfare needs of children.