New Education Leader in NYC
Cathleen P. Black Takes the Helm as Chancellor
Many New Yorkers were perplexed and surprised when they learned of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s appointment of Cathie Black as the new schools chancellor, a woman with extensive experience as a business and media leader, but with no hands-on experience in education.
Black gained acclaim as a leader in the publishing world as the former president and chairman of Hearst Magazines, which houses Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and Harper’s Bazaar, among others. She also served as president and publisher of USA Today and then served as executive vice president of the paper’s parent company, Gannet.
Black is a “superstar manager who has succeeded spectacularly in the private sector,” Bloomberg said. “She is brilliant, she is innovative, she is driven — and there is virtually nobody who knows more about the needs of the 21st-century workforce for which we need to prepare our kids.”
Black replaces Joel Klein, the previous chancellor appointed by Bloomberg. Klein has accepted the position of executive vice president of News Corporation after serving as chancellor since 2002.
Several parents and teachers who were interviewed by NY1 news in the days following the announcement of her appointment reacted with shock and disappointment. Some parents called her too much of an executive manager and not enough of an experienced educator. They expressed concern that her role as the chief of education will be too difficult to handle without any prior experience and knowledge of the public school system.
In order to take the helm of New York City’s public schools, Black needed a waiver from State Education Commissioner David Steiner because she does not have the background in education required by state law for the position. After an initial rejection, the waiver was granted after a compromise between the mayor and the commissioner was reached.
The compromise led to the creation of a deputy position that would report to the chancellor. The deputy, Shael Polakow-Suransky, will become Black’s second-in-command and will hold the title of chief academic officer. With a long resume in the New York City public school system, Polakow-Suransky will oversee instructional programs and educational policies.
Since her appointment, Black has visited schools in every borough. She visited the Bronx public school P.S. 109 in November to meet with local students, their parents and the media. She toured the classrooms of pre-K through fifth-grade students and even read the classic children’s book “Caps for Sale” to first graders. Principal Amanda Blatter of P.S. 109 called Black “a natural in the classroom.”
Geoffrey Canada, the leader of the Harlem Children’s Zone and a prominent figure in education in New York City, expressed approval of Mayor Bloomberg’s appointment of Black as the new schools chancellor in an interview with The Daily News. He said that she will have a fresh pair of eyes and a new outlook for the Department of Education.
“Going with a traditional educator at this point in time that does not have outside connections would have been a mistake,” Canada said. “If we’re going to improve education in the short term, we need to go outside the traditional education hierarchy,” he told the New York Daily News. #