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Fight for NYC Schools Is Just Beginning

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Now that the waiver has been granted that will allow Cathie Black to be Chancellor of New York City schools, there is a vacancy at the Hearst Corporation for a chairperson of the publishing giant. A group of teachers, retired teachers, and parents affiliated with the New York State Green Party thought it would be a good idea to apply. They did not think their lack of qualifications would be a drawback since the business community had rallied to support Clueless Cathie's appointment as school head.

The five Green Party members staged combined protest with theater at the Hearst headquarters in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday November 30. Gloria Mattera, a public school parent and former Green Party candidate for lieutenant governor told the assembled press "You will see if you review my resume that I am absolutely unqualified to run a publishing company, which is exactly what Cathie Black is to run the NYC Public School system." However, she was willing to work with a deputy chair appointed from within the Hearst Corporation who could assist her with on the job training. I know Mattera personally and I can attest that she is a very good reader.

Retired teacher Betty Davis, one of the other "applicants," called Bloomberg's pick of Cathie Black "an outrageous double standard." Davis charged that in the sixties African Americans were barred from professional positions because they lacked the required qualifications. But for Whites like Joel Klein and Cathie Black, qualifications can always be waived.

Tom Siracuse, another retired public school teacher, told reporters that to support his application for Black's former job he was brushing up on the publishing business by reading a book.

Mattera, who has a Masters Degrees in Education, a NYS Teaching License, and years of experience working with children and parents as a School Leadership Team member and PTA Vice President, was incensed that qualifications would be waived for a school chancellor but a similar waiver would never be granted in private industry.

In a prepared statement, she declared it an "outrage that Mayor Bloomberg has hand picked Cathie Black and the State Education Commissioner granted her a waiver so she could be hired." Mayoral control of the public school system continues to treat the education of our children as a business plan with slashing services and personnel to save money and high stakes test scores to mark success.

As much as I enjoy agitprop (political theater), agree with Mattera and the Greens, and think Bloomberg, Black, and the Hearst Corporation are fair targets, the issues here run much deeper. Under Bloomberg, government in New York City is authoritarian, arbitrary, and non-responsive to the populous. It is as if Bloomberg were a very wealthy king whose money gives him the power to buy whatever he wants and force it down our throats.

The educational experts who reviewed Cathy Black's lack of credentials are a good example. They either worked for Bloomberg before, may work for him later, or work for a non-profit receiving generous Bloomberg donations. Let us see how many of them express outrage that New York State Educational Commissioner David Steiner ignored their advice and acceded to Bloomberg's demands.

So far, not one of the eight has spoken publicly. The stakes are too high. You play the game, you go along, and you end up making big bucks working for Bloomberg in the private sector, working for his foundation, or working for one of the other edu-capitalists. When Joel Klein leaves the New York City Department of Education in January, he goes to work for Rupert Murdoch's New Corporation where he will cash in on his years of loyal "service," not to the city, but to the Bloomberg.

David Steiner is the former Dean of the Hunter College School of Education at the City University of New York. At Hunter, Steiner led partnerships with charters school companies such as the KIPP Academies, Uncommon Schools, and Achievement First. He also promoted Teach for America. Let's see where he ends up when he leaves the State Education Department.

I have friends, educators, who speak highly of Shael Polakow-Suransky because he is smart and has experience in schools. But there are a lot of smart guys out there. Polakow-Suransky moved up fast through the city's bureaucracy and was appointed Cathie Black's education front-man not because he is smart but because he is willing to play political games, keep his mouth shut, and tie the line. He is only thirty-eight and this is not his final stop -- if he continues to be the company man and do Bloomberg's bidding.

New York City schools and children do not need a world-class manager. They need a fighter who will stand up to Bloomberg, Steiner, and Cuomo and demand full funding for our schools rather than administer budget cuts. They need an educator with a sense of vision, a belief in what is possible based on his or her own work with young people. They need a spokesperson and a champion. Maybe we are all just waiting for superman. Maybe we need to become super men and women ourselves.