Cathie Black: Why Bloomberg likes her as NYC schools chancellor

Cathie Black has no experience as an educator. Why does Mayor Bloomberg think Black, a media businesswoman, can run the nation's largest school system?

Seth Wenig/AP
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (c.) speaks while outgoing schools chancellor Joel Klein (l.) and the new chancellor Cathie Black look on during a news conference at City Hall in New York, Tuesday.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the replacement of the city's schools chancellor Joel Klein by media businesswoman and chairman of Hearst Magazines, Cathie Black.

Mr. Klein stepped down after eight years as the New York City chancellor, the longest anyone has held the post. Next, Klein will be working with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp as an adviser to a new business venture in the education market.

Since 2002, Klein has served as head of the nation's largest school system, managing 1.1 million students, 136,000 employees, and 1,600 schools with a 2010 operating budget of more than $21 billion.

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Bloomberg appointed Cathie Black to take over on Tuesday. Bloomberg was criticized for appointing a replacement without a proven interest in education reform and who is not an educator. Ms. Black spent her career in media and publishing, sent her children to private boarding school in Connecticut, and attended parochial schools when she was younger.

But similar concerns were raised when Klein was appointed. Before he took the post, Klein was a Justice Department attorney with no experience as an educator.

During his tenure, Klein gained respect from near and far by increasing the on-time high school graduation rate from 44 percent to 60 percent, establishing 100 new charter schools, dividing up larger high schools into hundreds of small, themed schools, putting an end to the notorious "rubber rooms," and ended the conveyor belt promotions of failing students to the next grade each year.

President Barack Obama cited New York schools as a model for the rest of the country to follow after Klein turned things around.

Despite her lack of credentials as an educator, Bloomberg described Black as "a superstar manager who has succeeded in the private sector," and made it clear this was a decision that was about student "jobs, jobs, jobs," adding, "That’s exactly what Cathie Black knows about." Bloomberg said that he's wants Black to focus on jobs, graduation rates, and improved college prep. He expressed confidence that the city’s first female chancellor will be able to build on her fifteen years behind the wheel of Hearst Magazines and eight years at USA Today.

Klein thanked Bloomberg "for giving me the best job of my life and for being there every step of the way in the effort to improve education for our students."

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