Harold Levy, former New York City Chancellor of Public Schools, said today that he supports Cathie Black’s appointment, although he couched his endorsement more as support for the mayor than for the nominee.
“I don’t know Cathie Black, but Mike Bloomberg has made pretty good personnel decisions,” Levy said. “I think if you have mayoral control the mayor should be entitled to appoint who he wants.”
Levy was appointed school chancellor in 2000 by the independent Board of Education, as then-mayor Rudy Giuliani did not have mayoral control at the time.
The announcement that Black will replace Levy’s successor, Joel Klein, has been met by tremendous outcry from teachers and public school advocates who see Black’s lack of education credentials as a deal breaker.
Levy sees that these criticisms may present a problem for Bloomberg and Black, as she still needs to be granted a waiver from state education commissioner David Steiner.
“The statute seems to require somebody with some education credentials. It was written before the contemporary wisdom that a good manager can overcome a lot of domain knowledge,” Levy said. “It’s not obvious to me how the commission of education gets around those conditions.”
While Klein and Bloomberg have endorsed Black, as well as education reformer and former D.C. public schools commissioner Michelle Rhee, the list continues to grow of city officials contesting her appointment. Councilman Robert Jackson, who chairs the city council’s education committee, wrote a letter against Black this weekend, city councilman Charles Barron and his wife Assemblywoman Inez Barron held a press conference last Thursday denouncing Black, and councilman Jumaane Williams and State senator-elect Tony Avella have also spoken out against her selection.
Bloomberg touted Black’s experience in the corporate world, where she was the head of Hearst Magazines and the proclaimed “first lady of American magazines,” as indicative of her managerial skills. Levy thinks that Black’s executive leadership will follow in the example lead by Klein.
“I think his legacy will be that he brought strong managerial disciplines to the school system,” Levy said. “People talk about metrics and outcomes in a way, that, I started down the path of getting the school system to talk about metrics and outcomes and being data oriented and he has taken it a huge long distance from where I took it, and that is to his great credit.”
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