Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mayor Bloomberg didn't tell Education Commissioner he was appointing Cathie Black as chancellor

Saturday, November 13th 2010, 9:50 AM

Cathie Black is slated to become the new chancellor of New York City schools.
Seth Wenig
Cathie Black is slated to become the new chancellor of New York City schools.

The state education official who will decide if Cathie Black can take office as city schools chancellor wasn't even consulted before she was named.

Education Commissioner David Steiner has the power to grant a waiver so a noneducator can head the schools, but Mayor Bloomberg left him in the dark.

"The commissioner was taken by surprise by the announcement on Tuesday," said State Education Department spokesman Tom Dunn, who noted the city has not submitted an application for the waiver.

When Bloomberg announced his choice of Joel Klein for chancellor in July 2002, he sent a letter the same day to the state requesting the waiver.

Though Bloomberg has said a "public" search was conducted for the new chancellor, it's unclear who the mayor consulted - or who else he considered.

A spokeswoman for the mayor said Bloomberg and his staff reached out to numerous people before Tuesday's surprising announcement, but couldn't reach Steiner.

"Deputy Mayor \[Dennis\] Walcott and the commissioner ended up speaking later that afternoon, as did Cathie and the commissioner," the spokeswoman said. "Cathie continues to reach out and speak to our education partners."

Yesterday, the mayor again defended his choice and his process against critics, including state Sen.-elect Tony Avella (D-Queens) and City Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn), both of whom have called on Steiner to deny the waiver.

"It just goes to show they have no understanding whatsoever of what the job is. This is an organization, an agency of the city, that deals with 1.1 million customers, has 135,000 employees, has a budget of $23 billion a year," said Bloomberg, noting he talked for months with Klein about his departure. "He and I together spent a lot of time finding the right person."

Black's husband, Tom Harvey, out walking his dog yesterday, told the Daily News the mayor had made the right choice.

"I'm very proud of her. She'll do a wonderful job," he said.

Meanwhile, Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo declined to weigh in on Black's selection or the waiver decision. "This is the mayor's appointment, the mayor's judgment," Cuomo said. "The mayor's judgment has proven good in the past."

With Mark Morales and Frank Lombardi

rmonahan@nydailynews.com

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