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NYC Schools Pick Gets Waiver to Assume Chancellorship

From guest blogger Christina A. Samuels:

As expected, the New York state commissioner of education has granted a waiver to publishing executive Cathleen P. Black, clearing her to become the next chancellor of the 1.1 million-student New York City school district.

In a letter explaining his rationale, Commissioner David M. Steiner said that Black's professional experience, most recently as the president and chairman of Hearst magazines, are "substantially equivalent" to the certification requirements set forward in state law. District leaders in New York must have teaching experience and graduate coursework in educational leadership. Joel I. Klein, who will leave the chancellorship at the end of the year, also received a waiver.

To help him with his decision, Steiner appointed an eight-person advisory panel that met Nov. 23. Four panel members voted to deny Black's waiver request, two voted in favor, and two said they would be willing to reconsider the waiver request if she indicated her plans to appoint a chief academic officer to serve alongside her in the district's top ranks.

Within days, Mayor Michael Bloomberg submitted a letter to Steiner, saying that Black planned to appoint Shael Polakow-Suransky, currently New York schools' chief accountability officer, as a senior deputy chancellor and chief academic officer.

Steiner noted in his letter granting the waiver that Black lacked experience in educational matters. However, he noted that in previous waiver requests "substantial equivalence" need not mean that qualifications must match precisely, item for item:

"Despite her lack of direct experience in education, I find that Ms. Black's exceptional record of successfully leading complex organizations and achievement of excellence in her endeavors warrant certification for service in the New York City School District," he concluded in his letter.

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