April
8th 2011
NYC School Chancellor with no experience $hitcanned after 95 days

Posted under: American history, bad language, jobs, students, unhappy endings

No kidding. I’m just shocked that someone with no experience whatsoever in education was incapable of effective leadership of one of the largest public school systems in the country!  At least Cathleen Black was on the job for mere months and not years.

Clearly, education is far too important to be left to the educators. Just imagine the outrage if a 20-year veteran New York City schoolteacher were made CEO of a large corporation with zero business experience, or if (for example) an obscure History professor were appointed to an open seat in the U.S. Senate.  Imagine the outcry if a third-grade teacher were made Police Commissioner of a major U.S. city!  Yet we in education get this kind of junk “leadership” foisted on us all of the time, from K-12 schools to universities that think it’s a grand idea to put “business” people in charge as school chancellors or university presidents.  Think about what that says about how our work is perceived by politicians and large portions of the body politic:  anyone can manage a bunch of low-ambition teachers or professors!  After all, if we had any smarts or any gumption whatsoever, we’d be making gobs of money mismanaging for-profit corporations that have run the economy into the ground and have been bailed out by tax dollars.

13 Comments »

13 Responses to “NYC School Chancellor with no experience $hitcanned after 95 days”

  1. KoshemBos on 08 Apr 2011 at 9:53 am #

    Or for if a political newcomer to the national scene became the president of the US. Oops, the latter happen twice in a row.

    Despite that I don’t fully agree. Most western democracies have ministers/secretaries who not knowledgeable in their responsibility area. Yet, many of them do a decent job. A head of education can do an excellent job using experts and a sharp inquisitive and common sensical mind. With a below average intellect, presidents or chancellors, will fail.

  2. rustonite on 08 Apr 2011 at 10:56 am #

    @Koshem

    There is a significant difference between appointing a secretary/minister of education who is not an expert and appointing a superintendent or chancellor or whatever. Ministers do policy- they’re supposed to be implementing the will of the people expressed through the government. Superintendents do day to day management.

    The corporate equivalent is CEO versus Board of Directors. Take Apple- five of the seven people on their board are from other industries entirely- one of them is Al Gore, for Christ’s sake. And that’s fine. Your minister or board of ed or trustees are supposed to represent the community. But can you imagine if Apple appointed Andrea Jung, the current CEO of Avon, as its CEO? The stock price would plummet. But she’s fine on the board.

    The person making day to day decisions (in higher ed, about tenure and curriculum and research funding, in K-12 about discipline and classroom size and testing) needs to be an expert.

  3. LadyProf on 08 Apr 2011 at 11:29 am #

    Black failed spectacularly and appeared slow on the uptake, but who knows: No way this dog-piling humiliation from the mayor–topped by mean, kick-her-when-she’s-down NY Times coverage–would have happened to a man. However incompetent this alternative-universe guy might have been, a consensus would insist that he was doing New York and Teh Childern a great big favor by Giving Back.

    Black’s predecessor, the fawned-over Joel Klein, was unqualified in the way that Black was, but the mayor’s office discreetly complied with the rule that a credentialed educator must be the deputy under such leaders, and let Klein do his work. Nobody wants to heap opprobrium on noble d00ds who stoop to take on such a difficult job.

  4. Historiann on 08 Apr 2011 at 11:44 am #

    Rhee gets much better press than Black, that’s for sure. I don’t know anything about Klein, and so was unaware there might be a gendered angle to all of this.

    It sure seemed to me that Black was just another educratic fraudster in the tradition of Rhee, the dopey jock Arne Duncan, and the new junior U.S. Senator from Colorado.

  5. Indyanna on 08 Apr 2011 at 11:50 am #

    The link says she was $hitcanned “95 days into her tenure,” but I guess she really didn’t stay around long enough to get tenure. I wonder if she thinks differently about the collective bargaining process now? Does the replacement get the job because he’s a “likeable deputy mayor,” or because of resume throw-weight? I think I’m going to add some profological analogue of likeable deputy mayor to my next round of apps!

  6. LadyProf on 08 Apr 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    Totally agree re: corporate educrats who know nothing about schools. But the kindness, gentleness, and benefit of the doubt that such people enjoy when they’re male is striking.

    As you’ve noted, Historiann, there’s quite a dose of misogyny in the idea of teachers as dumb, unruly, and insufficiently controlled by scripts, metrics, and bean-counting. The Arne Duncanish hero that Joel Klein played rescues us by imposing masculine order. Cathie Black is unruly herself, being female, and for that she must be punished. (Michelle Rhee may have got a partial exception by being Asian-American, a/k/a model minority.) Nobody thinks that her superstar track record in corporate America–she earned a fortune in tough times–justifies giving her the keys to the schools.

    A couple of months ago I was driving through NYC listening to a city councilman on the car radio. He would not stop screeching about how UNQUALIFIED Black was. Cathie Black coming in was exactly as (un)qualified as Joel Klein, who gets held up as the exemplar of what city schools need.

  7. Historiann on 08 Apr 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    More on Black here, although it’s wrapped up within a discussion of Bloomberg’s political problems.

    See Diane Ravitch’s comments in particular: “Her poll numbers were an embarrassment for Bloomberg,” Diane Ravitch, a historian of education and a research professor at NYU, says in an email. “Presumably, she was brought in to convey his message, and they found she couldn’t talk in public because she had a penchant for flip remarks and knew nothing about education. [There were] too many tough issues for her to deal with.”

  8. Historiann on 08 Apr 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    And great points, LadyProf, about the masculine order/female disorder tropes.

  9. Spanish Prof on 08 Apr 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    Sorry for linking to The New York Post, but it looks like Black is complaining about exactly that, sexism: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/ousted_schools_chancellor_cathie_9QxDgdKgq0cxKeyMhntybK

  10. Susan on 08 Apr 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    Well, anyone can run a school because they went to one.

  11. Historiann on 08 Apr 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    Thanks, Spanish Prof. She might be right, but she said and did some pretty stupid things. It’s almost as if she didn’t realize that public schools operate within a context of democratic politics, and that therefore insulting her constituency was probably not the way to go. . . but when politicians like Bloomberg select corporate executives who aren’t accustomed to observing the rituals of consensus-building and democratic politics, then they deserve what they get.

    And Susan: yes, that’s it exactly. This is also the reason why people systematically undervalue child care workers’ labor. Because everyone does it at some point, there’s an assumption that anyone *can* do it full time equally well.

  12. Spanish Prof on 08 Apr 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    I absolutely agree with you, Historiann. If she had been a man, she might not have been fired so quickly, but she deserved to be fired and I’ve got no sympathy for her. I just found ironic that such a hack would complain about sexism. The former chairman of Hearst Magazinea, who publish such progressive products as “Good Housekeeping” and “Veranda”

  13. Indyanna on 08 Apr 2011 at 5:51 pm #

    The difference between Black and some 58 year-old veteran teacher who she would soon enough have fired because school management needs the “flexibility” to protect its investment in “innovative methodologies” that would be embraced by the 25 year-old (and cheaper) recent recruit who didn’t get fired is that Black will in no time be standing in front of a news conference pronouncing herself a “change agent” ready to shoulder the wheel at some new enterprise–not moving in with her grown children. Probably something with the words social media in the second sentence of the press release. Maybe she can turn around a struggling enterprise unit that sells imaginary cows to electronic farmers or something like that. No regrets here.