By Eric Yun
Cathie Black is officially the city’s newest Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor. State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly ruled on December 29 that the state and city acted fairly in appointing Black.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg selected Black on November 9 after former Chancellor Joel Klein announced he would step down at the end of the year. Bloomberg praised Black’s extensive leadership as the former executive of Hearst.
State DOE Commissioner David Steiner agreed and on November 29 certified Black as a “school district leader,” a mandatory certificate needed to become Chancellor.
Parents and educators, however, questioned Black’s qualifications and had sued the state to stop her appointment.
Eric Snyder, a parent from Park Slope, and others sued the state on behalf of their children. Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) joined the parents in the lawsuit. The parents argued that Black did not possess the necessary educational and teaching experience required by the state.
According to state law, school district leaders must have a master’s degree and have completed sixty semester hours of graduate study. The Education Commissioner can waive graduate study for “exceptionally qualified persons,” but the parents argued that the master’s degree requirement could not be waived. They said a person who had a master’s degree but not 60 hours could receive a waiver, but the degree was necessary.
The parents also criticized the new Senior Deputy Chancellor and Chief Academic Advisor position created for Cathie Black. A new position dealing with education should not be needed for a qualified Chancellor candidate, the parents said.
Connolly said while the waiver rules might be ambiguous Steiner was acting legally and within his duties when he interpreted the rules and issued the waiver.
Connolly’s decision ends the two-month battle over Black’s appointment. Bloomberg released a statement praising the decision: “This decision should bring an end to the poiticking and grandstanding and allow us all to focus on what matters most: continuing to improve the quality of education we offer New York City’s public school children.”
Black began her tenure on Monday touring schools throughout the boroughs. There, she told reporters she had found her “dream job” and was excited to get started.
She will continue her citywide tour of schools by visiting John Adams High School on January 10 where she will meet with parents, teachers and Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park).
Ulrich has said the new chancellor will have to make tough decisions.
“She faces the enormous challenge of pro- viding quality education to our students while dealing with a very tight budget in the coming fiscal year,” said Ulrich. “I look forward to hearing her ideas on how to improve public schools for all students.”