Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg reached a deal Friday to save the tottering candidacy of Cathleen P. Black to be the next chancellor of New York City schools, agreeing to appoint a career educator who started as a classroom teacher to serve as her second in command.As a result, the state education commissioner, David M. Steiner, has agreed to grant Ms. Black, a media executive, the exemption from the normal credentials required by state law for the position, according to a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations.The move was a significant concession by Mr. Bloomberg, who has often resisted efforts from outside City Hall to meddle in his affairs.
We'll see how much of a concession it actually is. At this point, I just hope it all works out. These days it seems anyone with any degree of managerial success is qualified to run whole school systems. But only school systems. I'd love to see someone make the argument that private sector managerial experience entitles you to run the NYPD.
For my part, I'm increasingly glum about the whole school reform business, if only because--as a parent--I feel estranged from both camps. On one side there are those (many of them who comment here) who resent a quantitative critique of educators, and attempts to make it easier to fire bad teachers. As a public school customer, and even as the son of a teacher, I just can't go with that.
But on the other side there are people who profess noble intentions, but seem
to deeply resent the voices of actual people. Perhaps I am simply dispirited by Washington and New York, but there doesn't seem to be much of an appetite for selling school reform to skeptical parents. The fact of the matter is that next year, my child will have a chancellor who has said almost nothing about her plans for the job, much less why she even wants it.
It all reminds of the kind of technocratic blunders which Nicholas Lemman chronicles in his history of the War on Poverty, The Promised Land. What scares me, is the possibility of reform efforts coming up short, and Americans then throwing their hands up in frustration. The optimistic part of me says the sheer weight of international competition won't allow for that kind of disengagement. We'll know soon enough.