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Saturday, December 4, 2010

New York State Education Officials Are Sued For Giving Cathie Black A Waiver; ATRs Are In Danger

Praises go to Park Slope parent Eric J. Snyder for suing the State education officials who okay'd the waiver for Cathie Black against the public - parents, teachers, residents - of New York City. Evidently Mayor Bloomberg did not think about his appointment of Black enough, so that he could dream up an honorary Masters Degree from some university before he named her. That would have solved his immediate problem, which I sincerely hope works (namely that the New York State Supreme Court tell Steiner to vacate the waiver for Black).

December 3, 2010
Parent Sues to Block Schools Chief

The father of two Brooklyn public school children filed a lawsuit against state education officials on Friday to stop Cathleen P. Black, a publishing executive, from becoming the next New York City schools chancellor.

Eric J. Snyder, esq.
The suit, filed by Eric J. Snyder of Park Slope, was the first formal legal challenge to Ms. Black’s appointment, although more are expected.

The suit argued that David M. Steiner, the state education commissioner, erred in his interpretation of the law when he issued a waiver to permit Ms. Black to become chancellor even though she lacked the required education credentials and experience.

Citing state education law and the commissioner’s regulations, the suit claims that while the required graduate course work and teaching experience may be waived for “exceptionally qualified” people, they do not allow the commissioner to waive a separate requirement that the chancellor possess a master’s degree, and calls for Mr. Steiner’s decision to be annulled.

Ms. Black, 66, holds only a bachelor’s degree in English from Trinity University in Washington.

Mr. Snyder, a lawyer, normally deals with creditors’ rights and bankruptcy reorganizations as a partner in the firm Wilk Auslander, though he was also one of many plaintiffs in an unsuccessful suit that tried to prevent Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg from seeking a third term.

He said Friday that he decided to file this latest suit because he was concerned that a school system run by Ms. Black would continue to emphasize standardized testing to the exclusion of a broader, more creative curriculum for his two children, Zoe, a seventh grader at Middle School 51, and Gregory, a 10th grader at La Guardia High School for the performing arts.

“I just think education should be overseen by an educator and not a corporate executive,” he said. “There are two things I am devoted to, my family and our form of government, and I just saw the mayor’s choice and the commissioner’s decision as an attack on both of those things.”

The suit is known as an Article 78 proceeding, an action intended to seek a speedy review of governmental actions. On Friday, Justice Joseph C. Teresi of State Supreme Court in Albany ordered state education officials to appear on Dec. 23 to argue why Ms. Black’s waiver should not be annulled.

Asked to comment on the suit, Natalie Ravitz, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said, “It’s time to put politics aside and remember that it’s in the best interest of all of our students for her to succeed as the next chancellor.”

State officials said they would not comment on pending litigation. Ms. Black is scheduled to take office on Jan. 3.

Black On Her Qualifications: "We're All Human Beings"


After being criticized by the press for, among other things, not being available for interviews, the new Schools Chancellor finally sat down with ABC 7 to discuss her new job. And among the first questions was, "What makes you feel you're qualified?" Try not to punch anything, but Black said, "We're all human beings. It is about people." She then goes on to talk about "tough times," being open to new ideas, and making tough but informed decisions. Check out the interview.

Preparing students for the job market of tomorrow is great and all, but she seems to have yet to figure out how that will happen when students are stuck on wait lists for Kindergarten. But she has said that one of her top priorities will be getting rid of "excess teachers," some 1,200 of them who get full pay and benefits but don't have regular jobs. The Absent Teacher Reserve pool is currently costing the DOE more than $100 million a year.

Parent Eric J. Snyder of Park Slope has filed a suit arguing that Black does not have the appropriate degree to hold the position. However, state Education Commissioner David Steiner acknowledged that she "does not meet the graduate coursework or experience requirements," and granted the waiver anyway because of her "exceptional record of successfully leading complex organizations."

Contact the author of this article or email with further questions, comments or tips.
Schools Chancellor-to-be Cathie Black: I'm in touch with public school parents
The reason all teachers should be opposing Black right now is the issue of what to do with ATRs ( "Absent Teacher Reserve" people who have been removed/excessed from their positions in the New York City public school system due to school closings, allegations of wrong-doing or incompetence, (rubber roomers - "The Gotcha Squad"), etc. It's the new game of "Gotcha" that everyone should be worried about, because it is not based on fact or law as implemented by the Bloomberg/Klein regime.
'Excess teacher' baggage for Cathie
New York Post,  December 4, 2010

One of Cathie Black's thorniest first assignments as schools chancellor is what to do about the 1,200 "excess" teachers who still don't have regular jobs but get full pay and benefits, officials said yesterday.

A decision on whether to assign these teachers-in-limbo to schools or yank them from the payroll is a "top priority" for Black and the teachers union.

Of the 1,232 teachers who lost jobs when schools were phased out or downsized since 2006, nearly half have been without new jobs for up to three years, the Department of Education said yesterday.

More than 100 remain unplaced for four years. Sixty percent of them have not even applied for a new job or attended a job fair, the DOE said. The Absent Teacher Reserve pool costs more than $100 million a year, the DOE said.

Teachers union President Michael Mulgrew blamed the DOE, saying it "refuses to permanently place" the teachers in schools. Mulgrew said the "ATR" teachers save the DOE "an estimated $50 million a year" by substituting for regular teachers out sick or on leave, but he added, "It's not the best use of these teachers' talents."

A November 2008 agreement to give principals extra money as incentives to hire the excess teachers expired Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a Brooklyn parent and lawyer filed a suit challenging the waiver that Black was granted allowing her to be chancellor.

Eric Snyder argued that Black, who needed the waiver because she is not a professional educator, did not have the appropriate degree for the position.

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