Cathleen Black, New York City’s former schools chancellor did the honorable thing this week by resigning. When she took over the position from Joel Klein last November, there was an outcry from parents, teachers and others in the education community concerning her qualifications. After all, she had no previous experience in education, not to mention in public schools. She went to private schools, as did her children. Basically, the nation’s largest public school system was going to be run by someone learning on the job.
A recent poll showed that New Yorkers had little confidence in her ability to run the school system, giving her a 17 percent job-approval rating. And no matter how smart or how effective a business manager she is (Black was a successful magazine publisher for more than 30 years), she would never be able to implement NYC school policy without the support of its key constituents.
So, resigning (at Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s urging) was the correct move on her part and shows good judgment rather than failure. Even she, herself, admitted she was unprepared. But her involvement in public education doesn’t have to end with the chancellorship. If she really cares, she now has the time to familiarize herself with the complexities of delivering education to an ever-growing, culturally diverse public school population. She can start with taking some education courses and actually spending time teaching in a classroom—she’s not too old! She could volunteer to tutor students after school. Or teach a high school course on running a magazine.
I welcome suggestions from readers on how Cathie Black might earn her chops in the field of public education. Please post them here!