By Jill Colvin
CITY HALL — In the face of widespread opposition, supporters of the mayor’s pick for new schools chancellor are standing up in her defense, and the city is doing all it can to coordinate and publicize their efforts.
The city’s Department of Education issued a release Thursday announcing that eight university presidents have rallied behind Cathie Black, the superstar of the media world who has no background in education.
State Education Commissioner David Steiner is currently considering whether to grant Black a waiver, which she needs to serve as chancellor because she lacks the necessary credentials. Mayor Michael Bloomberg formally requested the waiver Wednesday night.
In their letter, the presidents and former presidents of schools including New York University, Hunter College and the University of Notre Dame urged Steiner to consider Black’s "proven track record of success," "commitment to innovation," and "ability to make tough choices." They argued that all of these make her "extraordinarily well qualified for her next role as Chancellor of New York City Public Schools."
"We urge you to approve her waiver application," they wrote.
On Wednesday, the City’s Education Department released two similar letters, one signed by former Mayors Rudy Giuliani, David Dinkins, and Ed Koch, and the other by 91 business leaders including American Express boss Kenneth Chenault and Terry Lundgren of Macy’s .
The letters were made public along with glowing press releases that also tout the support of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and City Council members, including Peter Vallone, James Vacca, Michael C. Nelson, Domenic M. Recchia, James Gennaro, and Joel Rivera.
The Daily News reported the administration has been trying desperately to get supporters to come publicly on board and that at least one of the letters, signed by the business leaders, was circulated directly by them.
But one name not on the city's lists? Oprah Winfrey, who endorsed the mayor’s choice Wednesday in the News.
"She's tough as nails," Winfrey told the paper, adding that "She will be a tremendous champion for the children of New York and will do it with grace."
But as City Hall pushed its supporters, opponents of Black continued to decry her selection.
City Council members planned another protest outside of the Tweed Courthouse Thursday, urging Steiner to say no to the waiver. The protests have been going on all week.
A coalition of students, parents, and teachers, including civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, Michael Meyers, the Director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, City Council Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson have also sent their own letter to Steiner expressing their outrage.
The United Federation of Teachers' delegate assembly has also passed a resolution accusing Bloomberg of "thwart[ing] the intent of mayoral control of New York City schools, and creat[ing] a controversy which ill serves New York City public schools."
The State Department of Education has declined to comment on when Steiner plans to make his decision on the appointment.