Protesters Demand Mayor's Choice of Schools Chief be Rejected

By Olivia Scheck on November 28, 2010 11:17am | Updated on November 29, 2010 6:25am

Civil rights lawyer Norman Seigel said he and others were considering legal action to challenge the waiver if it is granted on Monday.
Civil rights lawyer Norman Seigel said he and others were considering legal action to challenge the waiver if it is granted on Monday.
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DNAinfo/Olivia Scheck

By Olivia Scheck

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MANHATTAN —Protesters demanding Mayor Michael Bloomberg's choice for School Chancellor be rejected rallied Sunday, a day before the State Education Department was expected to seal Cathie Black's appointment.

Claiming that giving the position to Black — a publishing magnate who has no experience of public education — is illegal, dozens gathered on the steps of the Tweed Courthouse.

They vowed to challenge a waiver expected to be granted Monday by the department which would allow her to become chancellor despite lacking the experience required by law.

"Our message is very simple: granting the waiver for Cathie Black is morally, ethically and legally wrong," said Chris Owens, a parent of two children in public schools and a member of the Democratic Committee from Brooklyn.

"If someone is making the decision about where to make cuts in  our schools, do we want an educator making those decisions or do we want a manager?"

The protest was organized by a group called the Deny Waiver Coalition.

Normal Siegel, former director of the ACLU and a candidate for public advocate, said he and others were researching a possible legal challenge to the granting of a waiver.

"The rules spell out specific education requirements in order to be the chancellor," he said.

"We believe that Cathleen Black does not meet those requirements."

Noah Gotbaum, president of the Community Education Council which covers the Upper West Side and Harlem, said, "We don't want someone to spend the next three years learning on the job, someone who spent the past 66 years showing zero interest in our kids or in public education.

"That is a slap in the face to our kids...Why the Mayor is doing this is beyond us."

In the waiver application, expected to be accepted on Monday, the mayor emphasized Black’s managerial background as Chairman of Hearst Magazines, but also noted her membership to several educational boards including that of the Harlem Village Academies Charter School.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his choice for new Schools Chancellor, Cathie Black.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his choice for new Schools Chancellor, Cathie Black.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

"In addition to her corporate experience, Ms. Black has experience in education," the letter to the State Education Commissioner David Steiner said. "At the Harlem Village Academies Charter School, where she serves on the Advisory Council, she has been a mentor to school leadership."

But officials at the school told the Daily News that the group hadn’t actually convened since Black became a member.

Instead, the school told the paper that Black had advised its CEO Deborah Kenny on "management, leadership, and the development of a book."

Additionally the school clarified that the board did not have any "operational or governing authority" over the school and exists for "support purposed only," according to the News.

Black had also served as a trustee at the University of Notre Dame, Trinity University and the Kent School in Connecticut, the mayor’s letter to the State Department of Education said.

Steiner, the department’s chairman, is expected to grant Black the waiver she needs to become chancellor on Monday, under the condition that she appoint Shael Polakow-Suransky, the current deputy chancellor for performance and accountability, as her number two.

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