Angst and advice for new chancellor


District 10’s Community Education Council President Marvin Shelton has a succinct suggestion for the likely incoming schools chancellor: “Be prepared for anything.”

And there’s plenty more advice where that came from. After Mayor Michael Bloomberg made last week’s surprise announcement that Joel Klein’s era as chancellor is ending and Cathleen Black will likely succeed him, The Riverdale Press compiled local education watchers’ thoughts on the choice and asked what advice they had for Ms. Black going forward.

Critics have already seized upon Ms. Black’s lack of an educational background, with some urging the State not to grant her the waiver she would need to take up her new post. In a letter to state Education Department Commissioner David M. Steiner, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said he was “shocked that mayor Bloomberg has again seen fit to appoint as New York City School Chancellor yet another individual with no educational credentials whatsoever.”

Mr. Dinowitz, like several opponents of the appointment, urged Mr. Steiner to deny the waiver.

“I don’t doubt for a minute that Cathleen Black is a very talented and competent individual, but I am deeply concerned over the possibility of having another non-educator in the top position at the Department of Education,” Mr.. Dinowitz wrote. “It’s hard to imagine that out of the 300 million people in the United States, there was not one highly qualified individual who actually has education credentials and maybe even a connection to public schools who could have been appointed to this most important position.”

Locally, some educational experts expressed mixed feelings. Some agreed with the themes Mr. Dinowitz was pressing about Ms. Black’s lack of knowledge about educational bureaucracy and issues. Sometimes, though, the very same people also wondered aloud about the value of having someone who is not entrenched in the system.

City Councilman Oliver Koppell, a former school board president, said while we probably would not have picked Ms. Black, he would not urge the state to reject her. “I think the mayor deserves his person in this case,” he said, adding that he would take a “wait and see” approach.

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