Like many others, I was completely surprised when I learned of Joel Klein's resignation as New York City Schools Chancellor. He's labored long and hard in the nation's largest school system and has achieved some noteworthy success, particularly the large network of small high schools established on his watch. (Ironically, my colleague John Tulenko is preparing a PBS NewsHour report on those schools right now and actually interviewed the Chancellor a few days ago.)
Unlike his protégé Michelle Rhee, Chancellor Klein is leaving on his own terms, to return to the business world he came from. He has accepted a big job with the News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch's organization. His detractors are going to have fun with that.
What's fascinating is Mayor Bloomberg's choice of a successor, another successful executive from the business world, in fact from publishing (Klein came from Bertlesmann). Catherine Black ran the Hearst empire, and now she's coming into the schools, a novice at age 66.
I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that Mayor Bloomberg never even considered handing the reins to a traditional educator.
But Ms. Black is going to have to do what Joel Klein was not able to accomplish, and that is transform the city's schools into 21st Century institutions, places where students learn to ask questions, not simply regurgitate answers. Is there a road map for that work? I believe there is, but I'd rather hear from others on that.
Watch Joel Klein talk about the job of NYC Schools Chancellor after his first three years on the job in 2005.
Follow John Merrow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/john_merrow