The firestorm surrounding Catherine Black's designation as Chancellor of the New York City Public Schools could have been avoided. Mayor Bloomberg explained his sudden decision by stating, "To go through a lengthy process in the middle of a school year is just not something in our kids' interest."
But he's wrong. There was no need for this rushed replacement in the middle of the school year. Hundreds of school superintendents announce their resignations every year -- or their boards do not renew their contracts -- putting these districts in the same situation as New York. Except that, with rare exceptions usually involving wrongdoing, these superintendents wait out the school year tending to their work as best they can while a methodical search is conducted and a smooth transition is planned. That is how it's done, Mr. Mayor, to avoid the very problem you described.
So the need for an immediate replacement is an artificial crisis provoked by Joel Klein's unprofessional conduct quitting mid-year or by the Mayor, if Klein was pushed out.
Some might argue that the city's 1.1 million school kids could not stand to be adrift with a lame duck Chancellor for six months. But there is no reason to believe that, especially under Mayoral Control and with these hard-charging men still in office, there would be any lack of policy or managerial direction. Indeed, Mayor Bloomberg himself is a lame duck. Has anyone accused him of being adrift?
The stability that was supposed to be a crowning achievement of Mayoral Control has been shattered. This rushed and flawed appointment process is still up in the air until the State Education Commissioner decides whether to grant Ms. Black a waiver of credentialing requirements. The Mayor's staff have not even submitted the paperwork, though Black is supposed to take office next month. In the meanwhile, the Deputy Chancellor for Finance has already resigned, effective immediately, along with the head of Enrollment Services who runs the complex system of school choice that Klein put into place. The press predicts more high-level officials will follow, left in the cold by the Chancellor's sudden departure and likely replacement by a total unknown. In private and public, there is a crisis of confidence that could have been avoided.
There is a way to put this genie back in the bottle. If Commissioner Steiner postpones Black's waiver request and Rupert Murdoch can wait a few months before Klein takes a position with News Corp., the ship can be righted and the public search that the Mayor says took place can be rewound, this time with transparency.