After touring P.S. 109 in the Bronx for about 45 minutes this morning and reading to a group of schoolchildren–apparently Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business–Cathie Black briefly addressed the media, a chore she had carefully avoided until after state education chancellor David Steiner granted her a waiver yesterday.
Black was asked why she feels that she is the right person for the job, considering she lacks education experience, and she deferred to the man who plucked her from the world of magazine publishing–Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
“The mayor has said right from the beginning, in our first conversation, ‘What I need is a very experienced manager who is used to complex organizations, who is a decision maker and is a very good people person.’ And he chose me,” she said.
Black deflected a question about the firestorm of controversy that has accompanied her selection.
“That was yesterday and today is today and I am the new chancellor,” she said.
Black praised P.S. 109 and its principal, Amanda Blatter, saying that the school appeared to be well-run, which was a credit to its leadership.
She was interrupted however by a parent who wanted to know what Black intended to do about the administration’s efforts to close schools and “privatize” the school system. The Bloomberg administration has favored shuttering some low-performing public schools and adding some privately-run charter schools to the city’s educational landscape.
“I am not going to comment on specific things this morning,” Black said. “It is my first day. All of these things are very important and challenging questions and we are going to come up with what we believe are the right answers.”
Black added that the most pressing issue facing her impending chancellorship was the city’s reduced education budget, but she said that she and her staff, including Shael Polakow-Suransky–the deputy chancellor who Steiner insisted become the city’s chief academic officer as a condition of granting Black the waiver–are up to the task.
“I’ve got a great team,” she said. “Together we hope to make the right decisions, and we will.”
After Black left, reporters asked Blatter, the school principal if she believed Black was qualified to take over her job running P.S. 109.
“I do,” the principal responded. “From what I see today, I think she is going to do very very well.”