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De Blasio: Schools chancellor announcement likely next week

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio said today that he probably won’t announce his choice for schools chancellor until next week — just days before he officially takes control of the Department of Education.

At a press conference introducing the two latest members of his City Hall leadership team, de Blasio said it was “very likely” than an announcement about the schools chancellor would come next week. He added that short-term leadership appointments would be made to accommodate the transition process atop the Department of Education.

“By definition, there will be some interim-leadership to make sure that everything goes smoothly until the new chancellor is fully on board,” de Blasio said at the Brooklyn event, which named Alicia Glen to a new position, deputy mayor for housing and economic development, and Laura Santucci to chief of staff. 

De Blasio’s hiring timeline would leave just a few days between an announcement and his administration’s first official day on the job, January 1. It would also be made just in time for schools to reopen on Jan. 2 following a 12-day break this week and part of next week.

Following his victory in the Nov. 5 mayoral election, de Blasio indicated that he would move quickly to hire a chancellor. But he has since said he’s going to take his time with the decision and the job has remained conspicuously open during the seven-week transition period that has filled nine other leadership roles within the administration. The transition has also focused on de Blasio’s plans to implement his campaign’s cornerstone pledge, to expand full-day pre-kindergarten services for the city’s entire four-year-old population.

The delay has also stirred rumors about who’s still in the running for the job and who isn’t — and why it’s taking so long.

One leading candidate, former deputy chancellor Carmen Farina, is close to de Blasio and was reported to be “in line” for the job as recently as last week. Farina did not respond to requests for comments.

Regent Kathy Cashin, another candidate, said today that she hadn’t heard of any final decision being made. A spokesman for a third candidate, Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Josh Starr, declined to comment other than to say that Starr was aware that he’s in the running but focused on his current job.

The ongoing deliberations speak to the complexity and sensitivity of the decision. The education department’s $24 billion budget is the city’s biggest, making up nearly a third of the annual spending plan. The massive agency operates more than 1,800 schools serving more than one million students and employing over 100,000 teachers, principals and other school support staff.

The education department is also one of the most politically-sensitive agencies. Though the long-term legacy of Mayor Bloomberg’s sweeping reforms is still unclear, his aggressive agenda drew fierce criticism, including from de Blasio himself. De Blasio has promised to depart from Bloomberg by slowing the growth of charter schools, rolling back the city’s emphasis on standardized testing and by appointing only an educator as chancellor.

Despite the differences between Bloomberg and de Blasio, DOE spokesman Devon Puglia said that there has been a free-flowing collaboration with de Blasio’s team thus far.

“The chancellor and his staff are in daily communication with the mayor-elect’s team,” Puglia said in a statement. “We are working to ensure this will be a smooth transition.”