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Bloomberg files formal request to make Walcott schools chief

The city’s official request that Dennis Walcott be allowed to become schools chancellor even though he doesn’t meet all of the state’s requirements is now in Albany. Bloomberg sent the waiver request letter to outgoing State Education Commissioner David Steiner last night, city officials said.

Until the waiver is approved, Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky is legally the city’s chancellor, according to city officials.

State law requires district leaders to fulfill a host of requirements, including holding a superintendent’s license, which Walcott does not have. But the law also allows state officials to grant exceptions to the requirements for prospective district leaders who have “exceptional training and experience” in education.

Bloomberg’s letter to Steiner emphasizes Walcott’s training and experience. The deputy mayor has a master’s degree in education and significant experience in city education policy, as well as a year and half of experience as a kindergarten teacher in the mid-1970s. Former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein received a waiver based, in part, on teaching experience that was shorter. Steiner approved a waiver for ex-Chancellor Cathie Black only after she agreed to make Polakow-Suransky, a longtime teacher and principal, her second-in-command.

Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch told GothamSchools yesterday that the state had not yet received a waiver request for Walcott, but that she had promised Bloomberg quick approval once it did.

“I assured him that there would be no reason as best I can see [a waiver] that would not be granted quickly,” Tisch said. “In other words I hope that the city lawyers get us the waiver request right away.”

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