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Cathie Black Walks From Schools Job, Buys Running Shoes

By DNAinfo Staff on April 7, 2011 10:50am  | Updated on April 8, 2011 6:29am

By Jill Colvin, Ben Fractenberg and Jim Scott

DNAinfo Staff

UPPER EAST SIDE — On the day she walked away from her job as schools chancellor, what did Cathie Black do?

"I went out and I bought a new pair of running shoes," she said outside her Park Avenue home. "So I'm off."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a Thursday morning press conference that he and Black both agreed that it was in the best interest of the city that she step down.

Black spoke to reporters outside her home wearing an ear-to-ear grin. She told them that she "felt great" after leaving the job she held just since January.

"It's been a great privilege to serve the city of New York and the mayor for three months," Black said, before walking back into her home.

Former Deputy Mayor for Education Dennis M. Walcott (l.) has been picked to replace Cathie Black (r.) as New York City schools chancellor.
Former Deputy Mayor for Education Dennis M. Walcott (l.) has been picked to replace Cathie Black (r.) as New York City schools chancellor.
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AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

Black, a former magazine executive, faced a rocky tenure during her stint as schools chancellor, amid widespread criticism for her lack of education experiences and a series of public gaffes.

"I take full responsibility for the fact that this has not worked out as either of us had hoped and expected," Bloomberg said during the press conference at City Hall announcing the decision.

The mayor appointed former Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott as Black's replacement. Walcott, 59, comes to the job with nine years of experience working in the mayor's office on educational policy.

"He has been involved in our schools at every level," Bloomberg said of Walcott. "As a student, as a teacher, as a parent and as a deputy mayor."

Black also praised Walcott, saying he "is a great guy, we have a wonderful relationship and I wish everyone the best."

Black's resignation was welcome news to many, including Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

"It’s been clear for months now that, like the Titanic, this ship has been sinking with more than 1 million school children on board," Stringer said in a statement. "I look forward to working with Dennis Walcott and wish him the best as he tries to right this ship."

But other officials questioned Black's quick ouster.

"It's a shocking development," said City Councilman Oliver Koppell, who added that he didn't think Black should have gotten the position in the first place.

"For her to resign so suddenly in such a short time, it seems inappropriate," Koppell said. "I don’t think it's been enough time to really evaluate the job that she was doing."

Black replaced Joel Klein as chancellor in January. Bloomberg was roundly criticized for Black's appointment because of her lack of education experience.

"Cathie Black did not know what she was getting into," Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, said. "She was thrown into a situation beyond her control."

Black's approval rating had fallen to 17 percent in a NY1-Marist Poll released on Monday, down from 21 percent in February.

"I just feel for the kids of New York," said P.S. 19 teacher and Battery Park City parent Dennis Gault. "We need consistency and a strong leader who understands the issues and understands education."

Black's resignation comes just one day after Deputy Chancellor John White resigned on Wednesday. He was the second deputy chancellor to quit this week and the fourth to resign since Black was appointed last fall.

Her time as chancellor got off to a rocky start when she flippantly joked about birth control being the solution for overcrowded schools while speaking to downtown parents in early January. She was booed by parents and teachers at several events, including at her first Panel for Educational Policy meeting in Brooklyn in January.

The city's school chancellor oversees more than 1.1 million students, 1,600 schools and a $21.9 billion operating budget.