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Black's Appointment as Chancellor Is Contested

Susan Notes:

The good news is that public school parents in New York City are fighting the appointment of Cathie Black as schools chancellor. This raises huge questions:

  • Where are the teachers and their representatives?

  • Where are the professional organizations? Don't they care about professional qualifications and experience?

  • Where are the colleges of education? Are they so scared of offending Bill Gates and jeopardizing the money flow his foundation provides that they won't stand up for the importance of their courses? Do they worry that all the professional development they collect will be jeopardized if they cross the mayor?

  • These are critical concerns. They suggest that our profession has no anchor in authority or courage. No wonder teachers feel adrift, with no leaders able to stand up for what counts.

    So parents provide the Good News. Our professional organizations and colleges of education provide bad news that is beyond contempt.

    The good news is also that retired New York teacher and quite active activist Norm Scott covered this event. I met Norm when we were both among the educators who met at the World of Opportunity (The WOO) in Birmingham, Alabama--to present Steve Orel and the WOO with the Courage in Education award. . . and a check which included donations from people from every state in the country.

    by Norm Scott, EdNotesOnline: Just got back from Albany for the Deny Waiver Coalition Cathie Black Waiver law suit. I got up at 4AM so I will old off on the details of the court case and leave it to the video which is being processed tonight. And therein lies a tale.

    I was told the other day to fax a request to tape and asked Chris Owens, one of the parent plaintiffs if he could take care of it and he did a great job but as of last night I hadn't received word from the court. Early this morning before I left I had an email from Chris with the letter attached. I printed them out and it turned out to be very lucky I did.

    I left at 4:45 to pick up Lisa Donlan on the lower east side. Got there at 5:20. Lisa was loaded down with coffee, carrot cake and truffles. We hit a rest stop at around 7:30 where she treated me to the big meal with hot cakes at McDonalds (over 1300 calories -- called my wife to give her the news and tell her to reinforce the floor boards.)

    Hit Albany by 9AM, parked and headed to court house. Chris had told me I couldn't bring a camera in and he was right - I had to leave it with security -- even my voice recorder.

    Got to court room -- 3 cases --Eric Snyder -- parent, Roger Wareham and Norm Siegel. Siegel wasn't there yet -- so I went up to clerk and asked about my faxed request to tape. She said she didn't get it. I gave her my copy -- she said she'd go show it to the judge.

    Judge Connolly came in with my letter and announced my request would be first on the agenda but he was waiting for Siegel and his partner Herb Tietelbaum. When they came he asked if anyone objected to my taping and of course the people suing didn't.

    The reps defending Black -- from State Attorney General and NYC Corp council had differing responses. The former said no objection as long as I had proper press credentials but the Bloomberg rep of course objected because little ole me with my tiny camera shooting from the back would -- as Noah Gotbaum tweeted:

    They said the videotaping: "doesn't benefit the dignity of the court" (!) You can't make this stuff up...

    Judge Connolly, who seemed very reasonable and fair throughout, asked me to do a short presentation on my credentials. I wasn't exactly prepared but I said I was ed editor of The Wave and was also covering for the Chicago based Substance for print and video. Also that I had been chronicling ed events on video for a possible documentary. He asked how long it would take me to get ready and I said 5 minutes to go down. Mona Davids tweeted:

    Bloomberg's lawyers are objecting to Norm Scott videotaping and recording the hearing. AG's office has no objections.

    Yes, to democracy!! The judge approved Norm Scott's request despite Bloomberg's attorneys objections!!!!

    Go Norm. Yippee!!!!

    A woman also asked to tape and even though she didn't ask prior permission he was lenient and we raced down to get our stuff. We were joined by a woman who introduced herself as the NY Times' Sharron Otterman, whose work has been impressive, especially on Cathie Black, so it was a pleasure to meet her.

    By Sharon Otterman

    ALBANY Ă¢€” Opponents of Cathleen P. Black's appointment as New York City schools chancellor tried to convince a judge on Thursday that the state education commissioner misinterpreted the law when he approved her selection.

    At a hearing in State Supreme Court here, their lawyers argued that state law did not permit Ms. Black, who has 40 years of experience in publishing, to assume the chancellorĂ¢€™s job, because she had no teaching experience and no degree beyond a bachelor's.

    But lawyers for the city and the state said that the education commissioner, David M. Steiner, had the discretion to waive the traditional requirements for the job.

    Justice Gerald W. Connolly gave no indication of when he would rule on the suits. Ms. Black is due to start work on Jan. 3.

    Ms. Black, who was appointed last month by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to succeed Joel I. Klein, does not have the master's degree, graduate courses and teaching experience that state law requires chancellors to have.

    State regulations allow the education commissioner to waive the law for someone who does not "meet all of the graduate course or teaching requirements" but whose "exceptional training and experience are the substantial equivalent."

    Dr. Steiner granted the waiver, citing Ms. Black"s publishing career and the city's agreement to create a position for a senior deputy chancellor with a strong education background.

    Eric J. Snyder, a lawyer from Park Slope, Brooklyn, with two children in public schools who sued to invalidate the waiver, argued that while the rules allowed Dr. Steiner to waive the requirement for graduate course work, they did not allow him to waive those for a master's degree.

    City and state lawyers argued that the language allowing Dr. Steiner to waive the graduate course requirement meant he could waive the master's degree requirement as well, and that he had the latitude to interpret education regulations as he saw fit.

    Lawyers representing other opponents of Ms. Black's appointment who sued argued Dr. Steiner had gone beyond the law by considering the new senior deputy chancellor position when he granted Ms. Black's waiver.

    "It would be similar to someone without a license driving a car, getting stopped by the police and saying, 'It's O.K. My passenger has a license,'" said Roger S. Wareham, a lawyer for two parents who sued.

    But Kelly L. Munkwitz, an assistant state attorney general, said that it was Dr. Steiner's right to decide whether Ms. Black's qualifications were the substantial equivalent of graduate courses and teaching experience. She said he also had the right to consider the city's special needs.

    "This is not a perfect fit; there are weaknesses," Ms. Munkwitz said. "However, no one has disputed that she has knowledge of large, complex systems" like the New York City school system.

    — Sharon Otterman and Norm Scott
    New York Times



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