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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cathleen Black Must Not Get A Waiver To Be NYC Chancellor

NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg actually made an excellent decision in recommending Cathleen Black for the position of NYC Chancellor. I'll explain my bizarre statement below. However, the bottom line is that Ms. Cathleen Black must never be Chancellor.


Hundreds of people throughout New York City have been complaining about Joel Klein's actions for seven years (I think that most people did not believe he was truly a disaster until about a year into his alleged 'chancellorship'). See the articles below and the thousands of other articles about his errors and blunders. We, the outspoken public, somewhat slowly realized that Mike Bloomberg has total disdain for the common folk, the middle class, the disadvantaged people who try to make a living in his city. He wants us all to leave. He does not care what 'we' say or do, because he knows that whatever he wants, he gets. He got control over the school system. He threw away the vote for school board members by getting rid of the vote by all residents and then eliminating the school boards altogether. He wanted a third term so he got a third term. etc. This is a public policy strategy called "The public be damned!"

Therefore, I want to thank Mr. Bloomberg for showing the world what writers like me can only conclude. He doesn't care about public schools, public school employees, parents, or children.

Ms. Black, Oprah Winfrey, and Mike Bloomberg, 2007

Of course it could have been worse. He could have asked Michelle Rhee to be The One. The only other worse choice would have been a white banker MALE friend without children or with children who had attended NYC private schools. Ms. Black's gender is an acknowledgement by Bloomberg that it is not only time for a woman, but necessary to have a woman at the helm. That's the only plus in his corner. I am very grateful to him for not having the least bit of interest in hiring a woman who had a phD in education management and was African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, or any other minority in origin. We public would have had a serious problem in that case.

Here is the great part: Bloomberg's choice of Ms. Black for Chancellor is proof of his dislike for every voice that has raised any concerns over the past 8 years concerning his public school policies. He is saying, "I don't care what you say" and we hate him for it.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was elected as "the education mayor", he said, and he would create the biggest overhaul in history of the 'failing' NYC public school system. We, the New York City public school community (and friends and relatives) know exactly what a disaster Bloomberg's control of the largest school system in America has brought, and we've had enough, thank you very much. See my March 2004 article Joel Klein's Performance Review. We have people in NYC who are speaking out, but not being heard.

I'm sure that we all remember the night that three members of the Panel For Educational Policy were fired for not voting along 'party-of-one' [Bloomberg] lines. The Village Voice did a great article about that and about all the other autocratic actions that Bloomberg has taken to get the reform HE wants, HIS way:

Education Mayor Bloomberg Called Out
NYC's head has a serious setback on his way to closing schools
By Nat Hentoff, Village Voice, April 27, 2010

Michael Bloomberg's ruthless definition of "mayoral control" of the schools became coldly clear on March 16, 2004, when he summarily fired three members of the city's Panel for Education Policy before a vote on the Bloomberg requirement for third-graders' promotions to end "social promotions." Eight of the panel's 13 members had been appointed by His Sovereignty, but there had been prior evidence that at least the disobedient three, and maybe more, would vote against the mayor's ukase.

Said the boss after his triumph: "This is what mayoral control is all about. They are my representatives, and they are going to vote for things that I believe in" (New York Times, March 16, 2004). Or else.

His faithful vassal, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, dutifully said that the three had resigned. If Bloomberg ever achieves his desired seat in the Oval Office, he will have a trusted press secretary in Mr. Klein.

Education is one of my two main beats; the Constitution is the other. I am opposed to mechanical "social promotion," but the Bloomberg plan—like the now-discredited No Child Left Behind Act—was based on the scores of single city-wide standardized reading and math tests. Ignored was a focus on individual students that will be part of my next book, Is This America? (Cato Institute).

In reaction to the mayor's victory, Robin Brown, the president of United Parents Associations (a city-wide coalition of parents and teachers' groups), said in outrage: "Politics first, children last . . . This is one of the reasons we never supported mayoral control."

Said Natalie Gomez-Velez, the Bronx representative on the Education Policy Panel: "This is not something we should be teaching kids about democracy." Apparently, she hadn't been aware that "democracy" and "Mayor Bloomberg" are not synonymous.

As the years went on, the mayor did relinquish control of the schools only to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and his School Safety Agents. Both are now defendants in a federal lawsuit on police abuse of students. But otherwise, Bloomberg was solely in charge until this past March 26 when he, Joel Klein, and the rest of his Royal Court were shocked at a decision by Justice Joan Lobis of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan that stopped Bloomberg's closing of 19 schools for poor performance. The judge sharply cited "significant violations" of the unexpected new state law setting rules of mayoral control.

This additional lawsuit was brought against Bloomberg puppets Joel Klein and the Board of Education by, among others, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, the New York State Conference of the NAACP, various parents, and political figures, including City Council member Charles Barron. The latter once invited dictator Robert Mugabe to address the City Council. I'd appreciate Mr. Barron's views of how Robert Mugabe is running the Zimbabwe schools.

In her decision, Judge Lobis charged that the defendants "appear to trivialize the whole notion of community involvement in decisions regarding the closing or phasing out of schools. The new law," she continued, "called for meaningful community involvement," and the "entire legislative scheme must be enforced, and not merely the portion extending mayoral control of the schools." That last zinger was directed at the Royal Mayor.

The Chancellor, obviously with the mayor's imperial approval, had not provided the educational impact statements required by the law. Where, for example, asked the judge, is there "any meaningful information regarding the impact on the students" (in those euthanized schools) or "the ability of the schools in the affected community to accommodate those students"? (Bloomberg is already an expert creator of overcrowded classrooms.)

The response by the rebuked Chancellor Klein (New York Times, March 27, 2010): "The sad thing is that the union [the UFT] would bring a lawsuit to resign kids to failing schools in order to save jobs. And ultimately, that is what this is about."

In another column, I'll provide some of my disagreements with the UFT, but this particular lawsuit is about preventing the mayor of New York and his successors from excluding parents and community organizations concerned with education from any meaningful involvement in the public (and we use that word provisionally) schools.

For further illustration of how Bloomberg and Klein trashed the law, the judge accused them of "completely failing to provide the information about specific programs existing at the schools proposed to be closed or phased out—or where the students would be able to find such programs [elsewhere]." For example, "where the school had a Living for the Young Family through Education (LYFE) Center, no mention was made of the program, or where a similar program existed in other city schools."

But, say the disgruntled defendants, consider all the public meetings we held about the schools to be closed. Answers the judge—giving Bloomberg and Klein a remedial lesson in Madisonian democracy—"although public meetings were held with respect to each school, and members of the respective Community Education Councils and School Leadership Teams were 'invited' to attend those meetings, it cannot be said that those meetings were 'joint' meetings (as required by the law). . . . For the notion of a joint meeting to have any meaning, the members of the Community Educational Councils and School Leadership Teams must be part of the process of structuring those meetings and not merely be told where and when to be present and given a script of what they are to say at the meetings" (emphasis added).

What did Joel Klein say to that—and what does his response reveal about his understanding of democracy?

"I think," said the Chancellor, "the process was robust. We literally met with thousands of people who expressed their views. We heard them, and in the end, we disagreed."

They disagreed because these irreverent views didn't follow the script. Joel Klein once promised me that he would bring civics classes back into schools so that students would know what it has taken in the history of this country to keep securing actual democracy throughout this society. I don't know the extent, if any, of his restorations of civics education. But his faithfulness in following Bloomberg's orders to exclude, as the judge said, any "meaningful community involvement" in the attempted closing of the 19 schools, shows his aversion to essential democratic participation in keeping a number of those schools meaningful to the very students themselves.

In an April 2 editorial, "This Time, Listen," the New York Times advised: "Instead of dismissing the lawsuit as an act of sabotage by the teachers' union, which was party to it, the city officials should be building bridges to the parents, community leaders and the angry state lawmakers who joined this suit out of frustration with the city's tactics."

What would you say are the odds that this autocratic mayor even knows—as the Times reports (March 27, 2010)—that "12 of the schools scheduled to close this year received a grade of 'proficient' in their last city quality review"? Or that many students and parents were stunned at the termination of such effective programs as the one "devised for mothers and pregnant teenagers at [the] Paul Robeson High School that offers day care and teaches parenting skills"? Too bad the resounding Paul Robeson isn't around to help the mayor shape up.

Other reports you should look at are:
Leaving School Empty-Handed: A Report on Graduation and Dropout Rates For Students Who Receive Special Education Services and Losing Our Future available on the Advocates For Children website; the New York Times' To Cut Failure Rate, Schools Shed Students and High School Under Scrutiny For Giving Up On Its Students (August 2003) and NYC DOE and Mayor: Social Promotion For Some, Not Others. Gotta Win the Statistical Game Any Way They Can.

And dont miss Mr. Hentoff's article "For the Children—Klein Should Resign: Where Was the UFT? And the Principals’ Union?" and  the report on "Pushing Out At Risk Kids: An Analysis of High School Discharge Figures" published by Betsy Gotbaum, the NYC Public Advocate (2002).

Then of course, there are my articles on the disaster of Joel Klein for taking away the Constitutional rights to procedural and substantive due process from suspended children, parents, and teachers:
Betsy Combier Speaks Out on the Constitutional Mess Created by Mayoral Control of the New York City Board of Education,  New York Senator Reuben Diaz Calls For the Resignation of BOE Chancellor Joel Klein and Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott (2007), School Funding =School Corruption and Silencing Opposition: The Constitution is Suspended in New York City Until Further Notice (2004), Bloomberg Says He is Doing A Good Job.

Mike Bloomberg never did a good job as a public servant. He doesn't like the public. He has no interest in involving anyone but his most trusted advisors any say at all in any policy decisions. UFT John Elfrank-Dana has posted the "Participation in Government" curriculum as a shining example of what the American government was founded upon several centuries ago, but that a person who follows the Bloomberg participatory democracy model would be sorely challenged to agree with. Elfrank-Dana's government encourages participation as a pre-requisite for democracy, a concept foreign to Bloomberg's administration where there is no possibility of meaningful or effective participation in public policy by any student or member of the general public.

The process of choosing Ms. Black is an example of Bloomberg's autocratic rule (he did not let anyone in on his decision until it was made):

November 10, 2010
Bloomberg Took Secret Path to a New Schools Chief

Shortly after 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg circulated through his City Hall offices, introducing a tall, blond woman who looked slightly familiar to his top aides. A foreign dignitary, perhaps? Or maybe an ambitious out-of-state politician hoping to impress the mayor? Somebody’s wife whom they were supposed to recognize?

No, it was Cathleen P. Black, and in less than an hour, Mayor Bloomberg would stun New York’s political, business and education establishments by naming her as the city’s schools chancellor, replacing Joel I. Klein.

To a degree unusual even for an administration that relishes keeping its deliberations as private as possible, hardly anyone knew of Mr. Klein’s departure or Ms. Black’s arrival until minutes before the official announcement. While such posts are typically filled after highly publicized national searches that can last months or even a year, there is little evidence that anyone else was seriously vetted or considered — and few of the usual suspects, including members of the mayor’s inner circle, were even consulted.

“I didn’t know Joel was leaving,” said Merryl H. Tisch, the chancellor of the State Board of Regents and a longtime friend of the mayor, who said she was “surprised” when Mr. Bloomberg broke the news to her, around the time of the 3:15 p.m. news conference unveiling Ms. Black as the next chancellor. “It all went down very quickly.”

Even Mr. Klein, who had spent eight years running the nation’s largest school system, did not know who his successor would be until Monday. And not until 30 minutes before the news conference — or just a little before reporters were told, vaguely, of an important announcement — did Mr. Klein inform his leadership team, apologizing for the secrecy of a process over which he said, with resignation, he had no say.

Inexplicable as it may have seemed to outsiders, the secrecy around the search for someone to run the schools crystallized two tenets of the Bloomberg era: the mayor’s faith in the ability of business leaders to fix the ills of government, and his keen dislike of drawn-out public debates that might derail his agenda.

And, in what has become a Bloomberg hallmark, the mayor relied on someone he knew through business and social networks, someone squarely in his comfort zone of wealthy and socially prominent Upper East Side residents, someone with whom he has shared many friends and colleagues, dinners and drinks.

Stu Loeser, a spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg, declined to discuss details of the search process, who else was interviewed for the job, precisely how the mayor made his decision or even when he first met Ms. Black, chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, saying only that the mayor “spoke to many individuals about the position and chose the best.”

But Eric Nadelstern, the deputy chancellor for school support and instruction and a respected 39-year veteran of the city school system, said that if he was a candidate for the chancellorship, he did not know about it. “I’ve never actually had a conversation with anyone either asking me to consider it or, from my perspective, expressing interest in the position,” he said.

Michelle Rhee, the education reformer who recently departed as chief of the Washington schools, did not respond to an e-mail on Wednesday, but several people close to her and Mr. Klein said she had not been interviewed.

Ms. Black spent much of Wednesday in her office on the 43rd floor of the Hearst Tower in Midtown, fielding congratulations. A call placed her office was returned by a spokeswoman for the Education Department, who said the chancellor-in-waiting would not be doing any interviews until after she begins in December. Mr. Loeser also declined to make the mayor or First Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris, who was said by many to be crucial in the selection, available to discuss the choice.

On Monday, Ms. Black was seen at the Hearst Tower with a thick stack of materials concerning public education. One City Hall insider, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to risk offending Mayor Bloomberg, said that key City Hall officials had spent hours briefing Ms. Black this week on education issues.

If many education stakeholders were hurt to be left out of the process, Howard Wolfson, the deputy mayor for intergovernmental affairs, defended the approach as crucial to avoid making Mr. Klein a lame duck.

“The mayor felt strongly that had Joel announced he was leaving and engaged in a search at that point, the school system would have been destabilized,” he said. “You would have had a situation in which there was a lot of uncertainty. He doesn’t think you find the best people, when they are paraded in for interviews.”

Instead, Mr. Bloomberg turned to someone he has known for many years, if not particularly well, a fellow media mogul whose social life and business interests cross-pollinate neatly with his own.

Ms. Black and her husband, Thomas E. Harvey, a lawyer and avid Republican donor, are known for hosting Christmas parties in their exclusive Park Avenue building, where apartments go for at least $10 million, and current and former neighbors include Tom Brokaw and Lloyd C. Blankfein. Mr. Bloomberg and his girlfriend, Diana L. Taylor, are regulars at those soirees.

In 2007, Ms. Taylor, a former state banking commissioner, was among several people who hosted an event to celebrate the publication of Ms. Black’s book “Basic Black” at the Hearst Tower. One other prominent co-host was Gayle King, a close friend of Oprah Winfrey, and the editor at large of O, The Oprah Magazine. (Mr. Bloomberg, Ms. Black and Ms. Winfrey were photographed together at the 2006 opening of the new Hearst Tower.) But Ms. King, too, was out of the loop on Ms. Black’s career change, according to someone who was with her when the announcement occurred.

Exactly when Mr. Bloomberg began courting Ms. Black for the job is not clear. Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said that when he arrived at a diner for breakfast with the mayor on Oct. 19, he ran into Ms. Black, who appeared to have just met with Mr. Bloomberg. The mayor introduced her to the union chief but made no mention of her having interest in or connection to the schools.

Mr. Bloomberg and Ms. Black, along with Mr. Klein and Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corporation, are regular attendees of the New York investment bank Allen & Company’s annual conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, the exclusive gathering each July of the country’s publishing elite.

Mr. Murdoch, who provided Mr. Klein with a job as a new executive vice president of News Corporation, was also apparently unaware of the mayor’s choice of Ms. Black until the day of the announcement, according to two people who spoke anonymously so as not to jeopardize access to Mr. Murdoch. These two people said Mr. Murdoch, who has grown more interested in education, had for months been discussing a possible job with Mr. Klein, over meals and at industry events. Mr. Klein said the two met on Sunday to hammer out the details.

For her part, Ms. Tisch, the Board of Regents chancellor, said she could not recall meeting Ms. Black. Asked about the choice, she was circumspect, saying, “I don’t know her, so I don’t like to talk about things I don’t know.”
Reporting was contributed by Tim Arango, Charles V. Bagli, David Carr, Elissa Gootman, Christine Haughney, Javier C. Hernandez, Sharon Otterman, Noah Rosenberg and Jeremy W. Peters.