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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cathie Black Is Booed In Brooklyn's PEP Meeting

We are now seeing a war that may cloud the real issue of getting public schools to give children a good - no, excellent - education.

Parents, teachers and others who are furious at Mayor Bloomberg's lack of concern for whatever anyone says, are acting out their frustration by booing Cathie Black wherever she appears. I agree with the frustration but what we, the opposition to Black, must try to do is act politically correct in our opposition. I mean, when a newspaper publishes a story about parents booing Black, be vigilant of the facts and watch if the article belittles the protesters more than what/who they are protesting. We dont want to look (the media is built on 'spin', remember) "worse" than Cathie, do we?

Mike Bloomberg is a person who never admits he made a mistake. He sweayed out Joel Klein and fired him when he had the 'right' timing to do so, even though, sources tell me, he couldn't stand Klein for years. Bloomberg will not ask Cathie Black to step down from her new position as the pretend Chancellor (I have not seen her contract yet). So, Cathie Black should realize how diverting her leadership is, and resign on her own.

I'm not saying that the crowd that booed Cathie Black at the January 18 2011 Panel For Educational Policy meeting was in error, I just hope that the protest against her continued employment at the helm of the New York City Board of Education stays focused and is effective. It looks easy to do, as Ms. Black had to read from a script at the PEP meeting and cannot speak out on her own.

Norm Scott speaks about Black's appointment at PEP

Julie Cavanagh on the placement of Millenium in Brooklyn

Coalition For Public Education

As I wrote earlier, Black should resign.

Schools Chancellor Met With Jeers At First Public Hearing

By: Lindsey Christ, NY1

Schools Chancellor Cathie Black received anything but a warm reception Wednesday at the first public hearing of her career in Brooklyn.

At times, the couple hundred members of the public at Brooklyn Technical High School booed Black when she began to speak at a hearing of the Panel for Educational Policy. Her microphone malfunctioned, but the audience quickly filled the silence.

This was despite the opening remarks of PEP Chairman Tino Hernandez, who lectured to the audience, "We have to have a public discourse that's civil and is conducted with decorum and I believe that we as New Yorkers can do that." Subsequently, he kept asking the crowd to show "some civility and decorum."

The meeting was the last chance for the public to speak to panel members about the 25 proposed school closures. One group of public speakers at one point sang during their turn to speak, "This little school of mine, I'm not gonna let it close."

Black also commented on how the city decides which teachers to keep -- a topic that was discussed during Mayor Michael Bloomberg's State of the City address earlier in the day.

"As we face enormous budget challenges and the harsh possibility of teacher layoffs, there is no way that we can afford to lose our brightest teachers," said Black. "We need to change the 'last in, first out' policy, so that we are keeping our best teachers above all, regardless how long they have been in the system."
Eighty members of the public signed up to speak, each getting two minutes at the microphone. There was a full agenda before the panel, but the majority of the comments had to do with a proposal to move a new selective high school, to be called Brooklyn Millennium, into the John Jay Campus.

Three high schools already share that campus and many teachers, students and administrators said they fear the primarily black and Hispanic students would be pushed aside by the new school.

After the public comments, the panel members discussed the issues and asked Department of Education officials questions for almost an hour. It was an unusually lengthy debate for a panel known for having very little discussion before voting.

In the end, 11 members voted in favor of the new high school moving into John Jay and two abstained.

Before the vote, DOE officials promised to monitor the situation closely, make several changes and follow up with the schools and panel members about the issues at John Jay.

"If I can speak for everyone collectively, we are hearing some very serious concerns," said Hernandez. "We want to be assured that Millennium, when we vote to approve to relocate it, that there's going to be an aggressive outreach strategy."

Black did not speak again after reading her prepared remarks. The five-hour meeting was likely a hint of what she will face in two weeks, when the panel holds two special meetings to consider proposals to close 25 schools for poor performance.

New Schools Chancellor Gets Booed In Brooklyn

New schools chancellor and former Hearst executive Cathie Black had to expect a tough crowd at her first Panel for Educational Policy meeting in Fort Greene last night. Brooklyn blogs have been roiling over plans to address funding issues at Park Slope's John Jay High School, which is attended mostly by minority students from outside the neighborhood, by cramming an "elite" school, modeled after Manhattan's prestigious, largely white Millennium High School, into the building. The proposal lead more than one resident to wonder if John Jay was about to go apartheid with funding going to a separate school that catered to white students rather than being invested in John Jay's existing mold-, asbestos-, and minority-filled classrooms. Despite pleas for civility (wait, are we still trying to do that?), the crowd jeered and booed Black as she tried to get through her four-minute prepared speech (Mayor Bloomberg's name elicited a few more). But it only got worse from there.

Before the panel even issued its vote — the measure to bring Millennium to John Jay passed with ten votes in favor and none opposed — parents waved condoms in the air to reference her ill-advised quip that birth control might be a handy overcrowding solution for Manhattan's schools. But the protests didn't just come from the parents.

In a rare example of a principal speaking out publicly against department policy, Jill Bloomberg, of Secondary School for Research, said that the placement of Millennium Brooklyn was an example of putting the interests of upper income white families above those of low-income families of color.

When she went a few seconds over her allotted time, the panel turned off the sound on Bloomberg's microphone. She finished her speech by shouting and led the crowd in a chant, "Integration, yes; segregation, no."

Even children were swept up in the furor. Addressing the notion that Millennium will help Park Slope parents whose kids are edged out of competitive Manhattan public schools at the expense of existing minority students, Kwaesi Laguer, an 11th grader on campus said, "You are saying that our school isn't good enough for Park Slope residents. Why don't you use the money to help make our schools better?"

Black began her speech with rare praise for the panel, which GothamSchools says "has been belittled as a rubber stamp to the mayor by some and as an opportunity for political theater by others." Impromptu theater, public chanting, comedy routines — no one can say she's not trying to keep things entertaining.

Teacher Marc Epstein Cites Praise of Joel Klein's Leadership As a "Snow Job"

My comment: "Brilliant perspective on the Joel Klein 'spin machine'*!"

Betsy Combier
*spin machine (n)

(Government, Politics & Diplomacy) an organization or group of people acting together to present news or information in a way that creates a particular desired impression

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

Joel Klein's snow job

By Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

This was written by Marc Epstein, a history teacher at Jamaica High School in Queens, N.Y., for the past 15 years, and a former dean of students. His articles on school violence, curriculum, and testing, have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers and he blogs for the Huffington Post. Epstein earned a PhD in Japanese - American Diplomatic history.

By Marc Epstein

If you’ve been watching the news you can’t help but notice the tough time Mayor Michael Bloomberg had with the Christmas blizzard that hit New York City.

After days of telling angry New Yorkers’ to consider taking in a Broadway show and stop complaining, the mayor’s vaunted PR machine demonstrated that it was no substitute for a snowplow. Consequently, the mayor’s approval rating dropped from 55% to 37%. Bloomberg discovered the truism of the old TV commercial that used to end with “You can’t fool Mother Nature.”

The blizzard interrupted another “snow job” that was dumped on New York by Joel Klein before the real snowstorm hit.

In a series of interviews, a valedictory letter to his principals, a segment on the PBS News Hour, and a scrapbook full of clippings from the editorial pages of the New York press, Klein was variously described, and described himself, as America’s most significant educator, a radical, an innovator, and a transformational figure. For the past eight years he has claimed historic academic achievements for the nations’ largest school system that were reflected in higher test scores and record graduation rates!

So with all those seeming accomplishments his sudden departure remains something of a puzzle. His stated goals were to eliminate civil service seniority practices, teacher tenure, close “failing” schools, terminate teachers from closing schools, and expand privately managed funded schools. Klein enjoyed carte blanche from the mayor to pursue these policies and high praise from the president himself. So why end this quest now?

My guess is that it is because Klein’s and Bloomberg’s proud boasts of “historic” success dried up once The New York State Department of Education recalibrated the tests scores and New York City’s results fell like a lead balloon. Overnight, Klein’s claims of pedagogical wizardry evaporated. And with that admission, the New York City “Miracle” went up in smoke.

As a result of this legerdemain, a generation of school children will have passed through the system with marginal literacy skills, when the billions lavished on outside consultants and malfunctioning computer systems designed to track their meaningless “progress” were put in place.

We now know that New York City’s gains on the state tests were illusory. The proportion passing the state reading tests fell from 68.8% to 42.4%, and Klein’s beloved charter schools had pass rates no different from the regular public schools.

The inflated graduation rates have been exposed too. With the recent news that 75% of the high school graduates require remedial reading and math when they enter community college, the Klein Era diploma has been rendered meaningless. So ill prepared are these students that the percent who graduate from college is in the single digits.

Despite the collapse of the New York City scores, the pundits and the chattering classes continue to heap praise on Klein. In their complete indifference to facts, the media sound like a claque that talks only to one another. The truth is what they say it is, with hardly a word of dissent tolerated or printed on their Op-Ed pages or in their news reports.

Most of those celebrating the progress made in the schools know about as much about the inner workings of a New York City public school as they the do the interior of a Sea Wolf class nuclear submarine.

They have unquestionably bought Klein’s self-congratulatory narrative about public education, as well as his narrow-minded views about teachers and unions. This narrative, as airtight as the most intricate Ptolemaic treatise, posits that a sclerotic dysfunctional bureaucracy ran the school system, and its classrooms were filled with incompetent teachers. That accounted for the dismal graduation results prior to mayoral control.

The Klein "spin machine" managed to convince his boss, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with New York’s opinion makers, that only he was capable of rescuing public education from the clutches of entrenched union and political interests before it was too late.

He accomplished this feat by appealing to liberal, conservative, and libertarian interests that love the rhetoric for their own particular ideological reasons, and don’t want to be bothered with the details.

The reality is something else, but why bother hunting down a story when you can “do lunch” with Joel Klein at a restaurant that serves yogurt at $23 a cup and get the scoop from the Wizard himself?

The question a good reporter should be asking was how did Klein manage to pull the wool over eyes of so many? Was it Bloomberg’s vast media machine or the power of Bloomberg’s fortune shrewdly integrated with the power of the political office he holds?

In part he succeeded because the media was not interested in the details of education administration and were willing to buy the myths spun by a Bloomberg PR machine that would be the envy of most heads of state.

Fail to clear the snow, threaten to close firehouses, or reroute a subway line, and the public outcry is deafening. But restructure the largest bureaucracy in the state four times and the press scarcely manages a yawn.

For conservative/libertarians like Rupert Murdoch, the lure of charter’s, vouchers, coupled with an attack on the hated teacher’s union proved irresistible.

For those on the left, the promise of a Peace Corps-like army of Teach for America volunteers and Teaching Fellows joining hands to close the Achievement Gap, the “civil rights issue of our day,” combined with a kaleidoscope of educational “choice” for disenfranchised students, made Klein’s spiel seductive music to their ears.

Any failures that popped up were airily dismissed because Klein was fine-tuning the mechanism. All Klein had to say to stave off criticisms as one reorganization followed another was that he was bringing accountability to a system that had been unaccountable for decades. Editorial hosannas would follow, drowning out reports of chaos and bewilderment that leaked out from those working inside the system.

Whether or not any of the several reorganizations accomplished anything went largely unexplored. The increase in the annual education budget –from $12 billion to $23 billion—more than the entire economy of some nations—went unnoticed.

As the reorganizations were implemented the school system lurched from tight centralization to extreme decentralization, the lines of communication between schools and central administration became increasingly frayed. Outside evaluators from England would evaluate schools. The pedagogy emphasized bulletin boards, students working in groups with differentiated “footprints,” teachers acting as facilitators, and computer tracking of student progress.

In short, classroom “reforms” represented every combination of a pedagogical game of pick-up sticks one could ever conceive of. Klein left behind a school system in which academic gains have been meager, parents have been shut out, and graduation rates are meaningless. The annual budget has nearly doubled, low-scoring students are shuffled from school to school, discipline problems are hidden, teachers are demoralized, and principals are scared of every twitch in the data, as incompetents rule the administrative roost. What is there to celebrate?

Cathie Black, Shouldn't You Resign?

Comments leave chancellor Black and blue

Crain's NY Business
Schools Chancellor Cathie Black and Mayor Mike Bloomberg's announcement this week that they would devote funding to help students who flunked the recalibrated state tests was not sufficient to repair Black's image, according to experts in political communications and marketing. They said Black is in danger of being identified by two unscripted comments—her joking request for birth control to help reduce school overcrowding and a remark that budget cuts are “Sophie's choices,” a reference to a film where a mother must choose which of her children will die in a Nazi concentration camp.

“She needs a makeover,” said one consultant with experience in crisis management. “It's more than one quip that went flat. It suggests a nervousness and a lack of comfort in dealing with media scrutiny of this kind, and a bit of tone deafness for the electorate.”

The comments seemed to legitimize a criticism of Black that went beyond her lack of education credentials—namely, that she has “such a corporate mentality” and would struggle with public discourse, the expert said.

Another political consultant said, “She needs to positively distinguish herself with something, or she'll wind up on the discount rack very quickly.” Unlike her predecessor, Joel Klein, the lead prosecutor in the Microsoft anti-trust case, Black did not enter the job with her own brand because the general public was unfamiliar with her career in magazine publishing, the consultant said. Rather, she was introduced by the media as someone who is “under the Bloomberg marquee and throws good parties.”

“She was a public relations disaster from day one,” a third consultant said. “The only bright side of the birth control comment is that it distracts from the fact that she has no ties to the school system. However, it reinforces a perception that she is an out-of-touch dilettante.”

In a Crain's online poll this week asking if people had a right to be upset by Black's comments, 70% said yes.

The expected outrage over Cathie Black's comment on taking birth control to curb schools' overcrowding keeps the New York City media busy. This is good, because maybe she will take the high road and resign. Mr. Harvey (Cathie Black's husband), can't you convince her of this?

What bothers me soooo much about her appointment is that in addition to her not being an educator and not having a Masters Degree as the position requires, she seems to not really care that she is so wrong for the position. I dont see a social (and I dont mean "party") conscience.

However, she has Mike Bloomberg at her side, and the "arrogance of immunity" allows them to be as sarcastic as they want. We, the general public cannot allow this and must continue to hold her accountable for her actions.

Betsy Combier


Cathie Black and her husband Tom Harvey
Parents, educators and electeds respond to Cathie Black’s ‘birth control’ comment
by NAYABA ARINDE, Amsterdam News Editor,  January 20, 2011 12:05 AM EST

Parents, educators and elected officials gathered at the Department of Education HQ at the Tweed Building on Tuesday to denounce the birth control gaffe made by controversial Schools Chancellor Cathie Black.

Apparently, Black, a mother of two, objects to fruitful loins in the inner city. Last Thursday night, speaking at a taskforce meeting about overcrowded classes at Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s Downtown Manhattan office, Black quipped, “Could we just have some birth control for a while? It would really help us.”
To what appeared to be nervous laughter, Black compounded the faux pas by adding that concerned parents are faced with “many ‘Sophie’s choices,’” referencing a movie where a mother has to make a choice regarding handing one of her two children over to the Nazis.
“She made a joke,” declared staunch defenders like Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who aggressively ushered in the unqualified, waiver-requiring former chairwoman of Hearst Magazines into the position that heads the city’s 1,700 schools, with their 1.1 million public school students.
Running interference on Tuesday at her first press conference since the comment, Bloomberg answered 13 of 15 questions asked of his schools chancellor, and then butted in again when she was asked about her birth control remark.
“Let me say it for her. Yes, she made a joke,” Bloomberg insisted for the umpteenth time in the wake of this latest controversy. He had made the same defense after he was booed at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s Dr. Martin Luther King Day celebration at the National Action Network on Monday.
As Bloomberg and Black held Tuesday’s news conference at the Department of Education, regarding the city seeking $10 million to fund programs for students in need of additional tutoring, Bloomberg said, “She made a joke. Should she [have] made the joke? In retrospect, probably not.”

Council Member Jumaane Williams called Black’s comment “simply astounding. Given the history of government-sanctioned sterilization programs and medical experimentation on communities of color and the large numbers of students of color in the New York City school system, the statement shows an unacceptable level of insensitivity.”

While the Department of Education did not respond to an AmNews request for comment, they did issue a statement last week saying, “Chancellor Black takes the issue of overcrowding very seriously, which is why she was engaged in a discussion with lower Manhattan parents on the subject. She regrets if she left a different impression by making an off-handed joke in the course of that conversation.”

At a rally at the Tweed Building on Tuesday, Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron wasn’t buying it, “Once again she has shown that her inexperience and the fact that she is unqualified does not bode well for the public school students of this city. Bloomberg should admit that his choice was the wrong choice, and Cathie Black should resign immediately. Her comments are blatantly ignorant and racist.”

Barron said, “Our children’s future is not to be played with. A child dies in ‘Sophie’s Choice.’ Those comments and references are no laughing matter.”

Council Member Leticia James said in a statement that “within a week of Cathie Black taking over for former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, she has already shown her lack of experience in the field,” and called her statements “simply irresponsible.” She added, “By stating birth control is a ‘simple solution’ to overcrowding, it implies that the birth rate is the only contributor to the overcrowding in schools; not the lack of funding for public school education and the continual closure of schools, specifically in urban neighborhoods. Mass entry of students into the public school system from private and parochial schools, the extensive unemployment rate and poor economy over the past few years may also play a role in overcrowding. Other reasons could be an increase in population due to relocation from other states or countries, as well as new housing developments being built throughout the city.”

“Wealthy families are not concerned about overcrowding, so Cathy Black was obviously talking about people in the lower income bracket in a city where 85 percent of the students are Black or Latino—so she means us,” said Barron, who hosted two rallies protesting Black’s remarks. “She’s not telling rich white people to have fewer children. Are we about to hear about eugenicist William Shockley or former Education Secretary William Bennett, who said that the crime rate could be reduced by aborting ‘every Black baby in this country’? It is a slippery slope when you start talking about birth control and ‘Sophie’s Choice’ with reference to overcrowded classrooms, but ignore the real factors like funding, the lack of resources and the hijacking of public schools by charter schools, and treating New York City public schools like a for-profit business for Bloomberg and his cronies.”

“Like many New Yorkers, I cringed when I heard that Schools Chancellor Cathie Black offered a smug reply…in response to the genuine concern about the overcrowded classroom situation in our public schools,” said State Sen. Reverend Ruben Diaz. “Given her attitude, can we expect that Cathie Black will be holding parent-teacher meetings where she will advocate for parents to either stop having sex, or to embrace abortion and sterilization as a solution to school overcrowding?”


As the president of Hearst Magazines, Cathie Black oversees a long list of titles including Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, O, Redbook, and Town & Country.


A native of Chicago, Black moved to Manhattan after college, determined to land a job in publishing. When she was offered a sales assistant job with Condé Nast, she turned it down, taking a position at a travel magazine called Holiday instead because it paid $30 more a week. By 1972, Black had moved on to Gloria Steinem's Ms. magazine, where her success selling ads attracted the attention of Rupert Murdoch, who owned New York at the time. Murdoch lured her away from Ms. with the promise that he'd make her New York's publisher if she proved herself as associate publisher first. That she did—and in 1979 Black became the first ever female publisher of a weekly consumer magazine.

In 1983, Black left New York and took the job of president at USA Today, which had been founded a year earlier. She eventually moved up to publisher of the Gannett-owned paper and helped turn it into a household name during her eight-year tenure. Following a stint running industry trade group the Newspaper Association of America, she joined Hearst in 1995.

Of note

Dubbed "The First Lady of American Magazines" during Hearst's impressive growth spurt in the late 1990s, Black hasn't enjoyed quite as much success in recent years. The magazine industry is struggling and the ad market is challenged, and although she's had at least one big successful launch—Oprah's O—she's had more flops, including Lifetime, Shop Etc., and, perhaps most memorably, Tina Brown's Talk, produced in partnership with Harvey Weinstein and Bob Weinstein's Miramax.

Black has been busy bolstering the titles in the Hearst portfolio that are flagging, including the Joanna Coles-helmed Marie Claire and Harper's Bazaar, edited by Glenda Bailey. Black's also tried to curb costs—she cut out the $500,000 a year once spent on flowers, for example. But at least Hearst employees get to toil in nice new digs: At the end of 2006, they moved into a gleaming new office building in Midtown, a 46-story tower designed by Sir Norman Foster.

On the job

Until 2008, Black reported to Victor Ganzi, Hearst's CEO. (Ganzi has since resigned and was replaced by Frank Bennack as interim CEO.) In 2006, she tapped Ellen Levine to serve as Hearst's editorial director and help her oversee the 19 titles. Just a few of the editors who work under Black and Levine: Rosemary Ellis, the editor of Good Housekeeping; Esquire's David Granger; Glenda Bailey of Harper's Bazaar; and Pamela Fiori of Town & Country. One person Black no longer has to deal with is Atoosa Rubenstein, who left Seventeen in 2006 and was replaced by Ann Shoket.

In print

Her book Basic Black, a "memoir masquerading as a guide to career and life," was published in October 2007.


Black is married to Tom Harvey, a lawyer. They have two adopted children, Duffy and Alison, and live on Park Avenue. (Ex-Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O'Neal is a neighbor.) They have a retreat in Connecticut and also spend weekends at the exclusive Fire Island community Point O'Woods.