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N.Y. Waiver Deal Said to Clear Way for Bloomberg's Schools Chief

From guest blogger Christina A. Samuels:

Cathleen P. Black, the publishing executive chosen by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to be the next chancellor of the New York City schools, will get the state waiver she needs to take that job, under a deal that taps an experienced educator to be her second in command, a person with knowledge of the situation told Education Week on Saturday.

Shael Polakow-Suransky, currently the chief accountability officer for the 1.1 million-student district, will serve as the system's chief academic officer, according to the agreement. State Commissioner of Education David M. Steiner is expected to grant the waiver Monday. Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein has announced he'll leave at the end of the calendar year. Bloomberg has stirred controversy with his planned appointment of Black, the chairman of Hearst Magazines, who has scant experience in education.

[UPDATE (Nov. 29): Steiner did indeed grant the waiver on Monday. Read our updated story here.]

In a letter posted on The New York Times website, Bloomberg wrote that Black intends to appoint Polakow-Suransky as "senior deputy chancellor and chief academic officer" with a wide-ranging portfolio of duties, including administering the development and maintenance of educational programs.

Black has no teaching or educational administration experience, and thus is required under state regulations to receive a waiver from Steiner before becoming chancellor.

After a meeting Nov. 23 between Steiner and an advisory panel charged with offering their recommendations on Black, the appointment looked increasingly shaky. Four of the eight advisory panelists voted against granting her a waiver, two voted in favor of the waiver, and two voted "not at this time," meaning they would be willing to reconsider a waiver if a chief academic officer were to serve with her.

The panel's concern over Black's experience seemed to be echoed by many New Yorkers. A Quinnipiac poll found voters said 51 percent to 26 percent that she did not have the right experience for the job.

After the advisory panel's vote became known, David Bloomfield, a professor of educational leadership at City University of New York, suggested in an interview with Education Week that the mayor might consider a "Plan B": "He would appoint a deputy chancellor, with her alongside, and leave it for everyone to figure out who is in charge," he said.

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