N.Y. Mayor Wins Waiver For Schools Chancellor Pick The nation's largest school district is getting a new leader. Mayor Michael Bloomberg chose Hearst Magazines chairwoman Cathie Black to lead New York City's public schools following weeks of controversy over her qualifications. She has a long career in publishing but has never worked in education.
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N.Y. Mayor Wins Waiver For Schools Chancellor Pick

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N.Y. Mayor Wins Waiver For Schools Chancellor Pick

N.Y. Mayor Wins Waiver For Schools Chancellor Pick

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

The nation's largest school system is getting a new leader - the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, Cathie Black. She will become chancellor of New York City's Public Schools after weeks of controversy over her qualifications. Much of that controversy swirls around the fact that Black has had a long career in publishing but she's never worked in education, nor had much contact with public schools. As Beth Fertig of member station WNYC reports, Mayor Michael Bloomberg got the person he wanted but at some cost to his reputation.

BETH FERTIG: And on Monday, the mayor finally prevailed. But only after the state education commissioner forced him to hire a chief academic officer to work alongside Black. Bloomberg needed a waiver from a state requirement that school leaders have certain credentials. If installing an educator was a compromise though, the headstrong mayor didn't see it that way.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: There will be one person in charge. Make no mistake about that.

FERTIG: But the fact that Black's appointment caused so much trouble shows how a mayor, who made billions from his media company, isn't always successful in winning public approval. More than 13,000 people signed an online petition opposing Black as chancellor. Justin Wiedes, a former teacher, collected those names and delivered them to the state education commissioner.

JUSTIN WIEDES: And this is not an attack against Cathie Black. She may be wonderful person. Unfortunately we haven't heard much from her. We'd like to. But the fact of the matter is that there are plenty of educators who are also excellent managers already in our city and the job should go to one of them.

FERTIG: But that might not be so easy, says Joyce Purnick, a former New York Times columnist who wrote a book about Bloomberg called "Money, Power and Politics."

JOYCE PURNICK: I think he ultimately got what he wanted, so I'd have to call it a win. But he lost some credibility, he was embarrassed, and I think that his reputation for being out of touch and being an elitist was reinforced by the way he handled this.

FERTIG: For NPR News, I'm Beth Fertig in New York.

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