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Is Cathie Black the Right Pick for NYC School Chancellor?

Posted in Ed Tech on November 12, 2010 by

In a press conference on Tuesday, it was announced that Joel Klein will resign from his post as New York City school chancellor. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has appointed as his replacement Cathleen P. Black, the current chairman of the board (and former president) of Hearst Magazine.

Immediately, Bloomberg’s pick made a major waves in the education community. Black has an impressive media resume but minimal education experience. For many, Black is a blank slate – as evidenced by the general response to her appointment, which ranges somewhere from “Good luck” to “WTF?”

Below, a sampling of the discussion surrounding Bloomberg’s choice:

  • Her education views are a question mark, says an Education Week article by Christina A. Samuels. While her “management acumen” is well-honed (just read her book), it’s all been in the publishing industry.
  • She has the skills for the job, according to a New York Magazine interview with outgoing chancellor Klein.”The issues that will face her – issues with the budget, teacher evaluation, dealing with how you move those agendas at the same time as dealing with budget cuts…are not uniquely found in an education system.”
  • “I have no idea what to think about this,” says Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor for the Atlantic Monthly, in one of the more honest assessments of the situation.
  • “Another bureaucrat more interested in economics than students,” says Alexander Heffner, director of, in an editorial. “Black has migrated from one corporate post to another without actually being immersed in the classroom.”
  • “Black was an inspired choice,” according to a NY Daily News editorial. “As a business leader, she sees the challenging new economic landscape for which young people must be prepared.” That said, “the stakes are enormous” and “she should expect little” patience from the public as she learns about the issues facing public education.
  • “Did I already say WTF?” asks The Awl’s Alex Balk in a blog post titled “Media Industry Perfect Training for Running School System, Apparently.”
  • “Couldn’t he find someone from education?” asks Dan Collins in the Huffington Post. Or if not, at least someone from New York, who “knows all the players and the rules”? (Black is from Connecticut.) “And of course… her kids went to private schools. Is it never, ever going to be possible to put someone in charge of the city’s schools who has at least some history with them?”
  • Black isn’t innovative enough, according to a post by Jeff Bercovici on Forbes’ blog. She hasn’t done anything groundbreaking enough in publishing “to suggest that [she] might make up for her lack of experience in education with a surfeit of fresh ideas.” Plus, at Hearst, “Black oversaw an organization of 2,000 employees. New York City employs some 80,000 teachers – and then there are those 1.1 million students to consider, too.”
  • Give her the benefit of the doubt, says Tom Robbins in the Village Voice, although he concedes that “it’s hard to see how the tools for putting out Cosmopolitan (this month’s lead article: ‘First, Take Off His Pants’) and Seventeen (‘Amazing Hair’) instantly translate into running the nation’s largest and most troubled public school system.”

What do you think of Black’s selection?