Bloomberg’s private players club
Most people, including top level folks at New York’s Department of Education (DOE), were blindsided by Joel Klein’s sudden departure to a News Corp position that seems to have been created for him.
Bloomberg didn’t bother with consulting educators as he secretly handpicked Klein’s successor, Cathie Black, a wealthy publishing executive who lives on Park Avenue and in Connecticut. His selection of Black has provoked a host of questions and concerns, which Bloomberg and his supporters are quick to dismiss as naysaying.
Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson claimed that Bloomberg did not announce Klein’s departure or a search because he didn’t want to destabilize the school system. But if Bloomberg was so concerned about a seamless transition, then it stands to reason that he could have plucked a seasoned leader from the ranks of the DOE.
This decision is a complete deviation from his claim to choose people based on merit and qualifications—a response he has given to questions around diversity in the largely white City Hall. It appears that the standards change on whim.
Black, who indeed may be a fantastic manager in the business world, comes with no background in education and has had no substantive contact with public schools. Not even as a corporate partner or volunteer. For all the criticism of Klein, his formation was relevant to the population he served. He is a Queens-bred New Yorker who attended public schools, worked in public interest law and was involved in civil rights litigation. That background at least made it seem that he was sensitive to the needs of children in an inequitable school system.
It seems cynical to put the future of New York City’s public schoolchildren (overwhelmingly our Latino kids) in the hands of someone the mayor could only describe as a dear friend. It is even more cynical to have his buddies in the mainstream media jump quickly on board to support his choice unconditionally. Perhaps it’s different when the children of your top editors and writers are not condemned to a dysfunctional system.