Mayor Bloomberg had his weekly call-in to the John Gambling Show this morning and had an answer for all of those critics questioning his choice of Cathie Black to lead the city’s schools. In brief: they are wrong.
The mayor said that it was not necessary for the chancellor to have a background in education, since the DOE is already filled with policy wonks.
“It just goes to show they have no understanding whatsoever of what the job is…This is a management job, John. It’s 135,000 employeess, it’s $23 billion of the public’s money and 1.1. million kids that we have to get services to. We have a phenomenally competent team of education professionals that have been built up over the years. The real problem is how do you take all this money and all these people and all the needs and get them all together. And Cathie Black has all the experience necessary. And the couple people you quoted that said she doesn’t have the education experience, that’s now what this job is all about. She’ll have plenty of educational experts to lean on to help her in formulating policy, the real issue is does she have the character and the smarts and the courage to do what’s right and I think this is a woman that does.”
Bloomberg was on his way to a memorial service for the anniversary of Flight 587, and his cell phone was garbled at a few moments but the mayor defended the secretive search process that kept even his and Klein’s closest deputies out of the loop.
“Nobody can do a search like that. Nobody would talk to you about a job if it was in the public domain because it’s too embarrasing to them if they don’t get selected. Also, if you are going to interview people who are already working some place else, it leaves them in an impossible situation if they don’t get picked with where they work now. Nobody does a search in the open like that. You can post certain jobs and people can apply but at a certain level that’s just not the way anybody would do it. And the people writing, some of these organizations that write this stuff, they don’t work that way either, nobody does.”
And the mayor took issue with an idea circulating that he only picks people from his Upper East Side social circuit, and added that he and Black could not really be considered friends.
“What I loved was a story that [says] I always go and pick friends,” he said. “I was trying to think out of our 40 commissioners and 7 deputy mayors, with the exception of about three, I don’t think I even knew any of them before the search process started, maybe there’s four. And Cathie I know somewhat well but casually in any real sense. Patti [Harris] worked with me and a couple of others worked with me before, but everybody else has gone through exactly the same search process.”
The mayor also said that part of the reason there was not an open search process was because he keeps a running list in his head of who he would like to fill available positions.
“We spent a lot of time looking around the world for the best people. And we have a list of people in my mind if anything else opens. I always try and think if any of our commissioners or deputy mayors, the way I phrase it got hit by a truck, just as a euphemism, I know pretty much who I would make my first call to to see if we could get somebody to fill-in right way. And to go through a lengthy search process in the middle of our school year is just not something that is in our kid’s interest.”