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Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to Be Replaced by Hearst Chairwoman Cathie Black

By Heather Grossmann | November 9, 2010 3:13pm | Updated on November 10, 2010 6:09am

By Heather Grossmann and Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Staff

MANHATTAN — Schools Chancellor Joel Klein stepped down Tuesday and will be replaced by Hearst magazines executive Cathie Black.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the transition at an unexpected press conference called Tuesday afternoon. Klein, 64, will depart for an executive job at News Corp. Black will be the city's first female schools chancellor.

The mayor said that he has known for some time that Klein would eventually leave city government. He described Klein as "one of the most important and transformational education leaders of our time."

"His legacy will go on," the mayor said.

Bloomberg said that Black, 66, was "brilliant," "innovative" and "a superstar manager who has succeeded in the private sector."

Cathie Black attends Made In Italy: A Celebration of Italian Fashion & Style at Hearst Tower on October 14, 2009 in New York City.
Cathie Black attends Made In Italy: A Celebration of Italian Fashion & Style at Hearst Tower on October 14, 2009 in New York City.
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Rob Loud/Getty Images

"She is just as passionate about helping children succeed as I am," he said.

Like her predecessor Joel Klein, Black does not meet the state's required minimum of three years of education experience to be certified for the school chancellor job, so she will need a waiver from the state before the appointment is official.When asked why he had chosen another school boss without experience in the education system, Bloomberg said that the department was already staffed with "pedagogical experts."

"That’s not our problem," Bloomberg said of educational experience. "Our problem is making sure that an organization with a $23 billion budget and 135,000 employees…is able to function."

Black admitted that her own children attend boarding school in Connecticut and that she attended parochial schools growing up in Chicago.

Klein and Bloomberg have been a dynamic duo in education circles since the mayor's administration began in 2002. They worked to eliminate the Board of Education and institute mayoral control of the school system. Klein, who oversaw more than 1,600 public schools with 136,000 employees and a $21 billion operating budget, also helped grow the number of charter schools in the city.

He has also battled with the United Federation of Teachers and worked to institute performance-based raises and eliminate teacher tenure, among other efforts.

"Thank you for giving me the best job I've ever had," Klein said at the announcement of his resignation. He said he had accepted a job as an executive vice president at News Corp. where he will report directly to the company's Chairman Rupert Murdoch, a long-time fan of Klein's. The job will reportedly entail work on a variety of initiatives that will help the company get involved in the educational marketplace. 

As word of Klein's departure spread across the city, reaction was mixed.

"There are more high-performing public school options for parents in New York City than ever before, largely because of the climate that Chancellor Klein created for new schools that could be designed around excellent teaching and learning," said Eva Moskowitz, a former City Councilwoman and CEO of Success Charter Network, which is behind a controversial plan to open a new charter school on the Upper West Side.

"Years from now, when we reach a day when all children in the city are offered the education they deserve, we will have Chancellor Klein to thank for the tough work of getting the reform ball rolling," Moskowitz said in a statement.

Joseph Anderson, principal at the Clinton School in Chelsea, said he also thought Klein had done a good job.

"As a principal I felt he created a level of accountability that pushed us all to think critically and creatively," Anderson said. "He made us dig a little deeper and ask, 'Is effective teaching really going on?'"

Anderson said that one of the best experiences he had working in education was a review Klein gave him in May 2010. Anderson said he "didn't do very well," but that pushed him to make necessary changes.

Clara Hemphill, senior editor, Center for New York City Affairs at the New School and founding editor of indieschools.net, said she thought Klein's introduction of small schools to the city's system was a big success.

"I think breaking up the large dysfunctional high schools was a good thing," she said, mentioning the Louis D. Brandeis High School on West 84th Street and Martin Luther King High School on Amsterdam Avenue.

The outgoing and incoming Schools Chancellors.
The outgoing and incoming Schools Chancellors.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

But Hemphill also said she thought Klein "been a polarizing figure who was unnecessarily antagonistic with parents."

Harlem State Sen. Bill Perkins, who is known for his skepticism of charter schools, gave Kline a D grade and said the school system is now worse off than when he first arrived.

"It's a very jarring change that I don't think is good for a system in crisis. The replacement does not come with the credentials that would prove success in a system where our children are not measuring up," said Perkins.

"Every time you thought we were moving forward, the state would say you are not as good as you think you are. Some people even suspected manipulation," Perkins said of Klein's efforts.

Tricia Joyce, a TriBeCa resident and P.S. 234 parent said she "always had my concerns" about Klein, but added, "I know he tried."

Paul Hovitz, vice chairman of Community Board 1's Youth and Education Committee, has been critical of Klein because of school overcrowding downtown. He thinks Klein's business-oriented approach didn't work.

"I question the emphasis on business over pedagogy. Our kids are not commodities," Hovitz said. He added that he was "cautiously optimistic" about the new chancellor.

Leonie Haimson, a Klein critic and executive director of the education site "Class Size Matters," said that class sizes have risen under Klein and that "many parents will be glad to see Joel Klein leave as chancellor."

"He is leaving us with a legacy of classroom overcrowding, communities fighting over co-located schools, Kindergarten waiting lists, unreliable school grades based on bad data, substandard credit recovery programs, and our children starved of art, music and science – all replaced with test prep," Haimson said in a statement.

Klein will remain with the city through the new year to help with the transition, Bloomberg said.

Julie Shapiro, Leslie Albrecht, Jeff Mays, Gabriela Resto-Montero and Tara Kyle contributed reporting.

New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein stepped down Tuesday.
New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein stepped down Tuesday.
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Mark Von Holden/Getty Images