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While ignoring Black and latino/a educators)

Bloomberg picks media boss as NYC school chancellor

Published Nov 21, 2010 8:07 PM

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the 10th richest person in the United States with an $18 billion fortune, picked Cathleen Black as the next public school chancellor.

What qualifications does Black have to run the largest school system in the United States with more than a million students? Absolutely none.

Cathleen Black attended parochial schools and never even belonged to a PTA, since her children attended expensive boarding schools in Connecticut.

State education commissioner David Steiner should veto Bloomberg’s appointment of a media tycoon. Black’s entire background is in corporate boardrooms, not classrooms.

As president of Hearst magazines, one of the many monthlies Black published was Cosmopolitan. From 1983 to 1991, she was publisher of USA Today, which, like the Hearst magazine empire, is non-union.

Last year she earned more than $500,000 as a director of IBM, Coca-Cola and other big outfits.

In 2009 IBM did $300 million worth of business with New York City public schools. Isn’t that a conflict of interest?

Eighty-five percent of students in New York public schools are Asian, Black, Latino/a and Native American. Both the current chancellor Joel Klein and Cathleen Black are white.

Bloomberg’s selection of Klein and Black, both of whom are unqualified, is a slap in the face to educators of color. Klein immediately announced a plush job at the News Corp. as an “executive vice president in the office of the chairman, Rupert Murdoch.” (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 11.)

In her how-to book, “Basic Black,” the nominee describes her experience in laying off staff and closing a magazine in the red. That experience may be what Bloomberg is looking to as the city tries to close up to 60 schools and eliminate teachers in the coming year. Opposition to Cathleen Black’s appointment has been led by the Freedom Party.

“I think Bloomberg’s decision to appoint Cathleen Black is arrogant, absurd and unacceptable,” declared City Councilperson Charles Barron, who was the Freedom Party’s candidate for governor. “Waiving Klein’s lack of credentials was a horrible mistake and look where that got us. He should have consulted the community.”

Charles Barron, Assemblywoman Inez Barron and other community leaders spoke at a Nov. 11 news conference in front of City Hall, where he made those comments.

Testing not teaching

Departing Schools Chancellor Joel Klein may have been dumped by Bloomberg. Klein’s claims to have raised test scores were proven phony by the latest state examinations.

Under Klein, tests preparation overrode everything else. This wasn’t accountability. Real solutions, like a decrease in classroom size, were ignored.

Klein was instead a big promoter of private non-union charter schools, while seeking to close dozens of “failing” public schools.

This failed record has led to Klein being hailed as an “educational reformer” — not by teachers or parents, but by stock speculators. According to New York Times business columnist Joe Nocera, “As part of his drive to open charter schools, Mr. Klein courted an important ally: New York’s wealthy hedge fund community, which has backed them with tens of millions of dollars.” (Nov. 13)

Wheeler-dealer Steven Brill told Nocera that the public schools should be run like Bloomberg’s media empire, where “nobody has a contract.” In other words, teachers and other workers should be fired on whim without union protection.

This is nothing new. Hundreds of the best and most dedicated teachers were fired from the 1940s to 1960s under the notorious Feinberg law for being communists. Workers World Party member Dave Schechter was fired in the early 1970s for allowing his math class students to rally in defense of Black Panther Party leader Bobby Seale.

Brilliant Black educator Dr. Adelaide Sanford was passed over to lead the New York City school system. Before becoming Vice Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, Dr. Sanford had been an innovative principal at P.S. 21, the Crispus Attucks School in Brooklyn. She was a classmate of Shirley Chisholm, the first Black congresswoman.

Last March 14, cops beat Dr. Sanford’s son and grandson in the Bronx following a basketball game.

Another real educational reformer was Abubadika Sonny Carson, who helped lead the struggle for community control in Brooklyn’s Ocean Hill-Brownsville neighborhoods in 1968.

Despite support of the local community board, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn prevented a street from being named for this Black hero, who died in 2002. Yet a block of Broadway in Manhattan was named “Al Jolson Way” for a white singer who performed in blackface.