Cathie Black presided over her first Panel for Education Policy meeting last night, and needless to say, her official welcome was a little rough.
As you can see in the video below, Black was booed and heckled as she spoke, especially when she brought up the name of her boss–Mayor Michael Bloomberg (who, you may recall, received a similar reception at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s Martin Luther King Day event).
Black has had something of a rough go of it since assuming the job of chancellor at the start of the year. Last week she created a media firestorm when she suggested (in jest) at a community meeting that the solution to school overcrowding was “birth control.” This led to an unusually harsh Daily News editorial, which said that her off-color remark was the least of her problems:
The community leaders were committed and well-informed. They were joined at the meeting by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who represents the area and is an official with whom Black needs a good relationship.
They had hoped for a productive back-and-forth over the area’s well-known struggle to find adequate space for a school population that has soared with a post-9/11 influx of families.
But the tape shows that Black was not versed in the background and so could not meaningfully discuss the situation. Given her reputation as a demanding private-sector manager, it’s doubtful she would have gone to a business meeting similarly unprepared.
Her concluding message proved unsatisfying as well.
Black emphasized limitations first, actions second. Her answer to concerns about overcrowding was that she could have the same kind of conversation all over the city; that parents everywhere have issues about their children’s education, leading to “many Sophie’s choices.”
While limitations may be real, the public deserves more from a public official, let alone a creative manager, than a talk about how little can reasonably be expected. Instead, the public needs creative solutions that overcome limitations as much as possible.
The purpose of last night’s meeting, according to Meredith Kolodner, was to determine if an elite Manhattan high school should be placed on the grounds of John Jay, a crumbling school site in Brooklyn that educates mostly black and Latino students. Protesters waved condoms in the air to call attention to Black’s previous remarks on overcrowding.
Watch the PEP video below: