The mayor has named publishing executive Cathie Black as the new leader of the city school system, after Joel Klein announced Tuesday that he is stepping down from the post that he's held for more than eight years.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he made the selection because of Black's management and budget experience and her ability to prepare students for the future job market.
Black, the first woman to hold the position, is taking her first foray into the public sector by taking charge of the education of 1.1 million children and young adults in New York City.
"I have no illusions about this being an easy next three years. Quite the opposite," said Black, who most recently served as the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines and the publisher of USA Today. "But what I ask for is patience, as I get up to speed on all of the issues facing K-12 education today. What I can promise is that I will listen to your concerns, your interests and your expectations. In turn, I ask the same of you."
Since she is not a certified educator, Black will need to secure a waiver from the New York State Department of Education -- something Klein needed as well.
Black, a 66-year-old Manhattan resident with two children who attended private school, has been named to Forbes' "100 Most Powerful Women," but admitted she has very little experience working with unions.
In addition to running Hearst Magazines for 15 years, Black served as the publisher of New York Magazine and USA Today, and has also published a book titled "Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life)."
She will succeed Klein, who the mayor called a "tireless champion for the children." He has served as schools chancellor since 2002, when the state Legislature turned control of city schools over to the mayor.
“For more than eight years, I’ve been privileged to wake up each morning knowing that I had the opportunity to serve this city and a school system that I love so much," said Klein.
While at the helm, Klein helped end the practice of social promotion. He closed nearly 100 schools, including many of the city's biggest high schools, but opened 474 others, including many new charter schools.
He also implemented grading systems for schools and teachers, mostly based off of standardized test scores.
"He leaves a legacy of achievement that makes him one of the most important and transformational educational leaders of our time," said the mayor.
"What we achieved is truly a tribute to your leadership, your steadfastness, particularly in times of controversy, and indeed your willing to make education a number-one priority," Klein said in turn to Bloomberg.
Klein's time in office was not without conflict. While teachers received substantial pay raises in the two union contracts overseen by Klein, the outgoing chancellor had a contentious relationship with unions. The latest contract is out of date by over a year.
Upon word of his resignation, frequent critic Class Size Matters released a statement slamming Klein's leadership.
"He is leaving us with a legacy of classroom overcrowding, communities fighting over co-located schools, Kindergarten waiting lists, unreliable school grades based on bad data, substandard credit recovery programs, and our children starved of art, music and science – all replaced with test prep," said Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters.
The group also questioned the mayor's selection for Klein's replacement, saying "it is unfortunate that once again, the mayor has chosen someone with no educational experience...."
Parents and teachers in Chelsea, Manhattan told NY1 that they had mixed feelings over Klein's replacement.
"What is her experience in education? She could be a good magazine editor or producer [sic], but what is her experience been running public schools?" said P.S. 11 teacher Sarah Fridman.
"I like Joel Klein. I'm a parent coordinator, and he brought us in. So I'd like to think that he did welcome us here," said parent coordinator Stephen McGill.
"This woman now is going to replace somebody who was at heart a great advocate for education," said parent Lorrie Veasey. "That's going to be a concern of any parent, that the agenda of a businesswoman going in is not going to be the agenda that parents and teachers have."
According to the DOE Web site, the schools chancellor oversees over 1,600 schools, 136,000 employees and an operating budget of more than $21 billion.
A graduate of the city's public school system, Klein came from a background of government and business. He is joining News Corp. as an executive vice president in the office of the chairman. He is set to act as senior advisor to Rupert Murdoch on education initiatives and to help the corporation enter the educational technology marketplace.
The mayor said Klein will stay on until the end of the year to ease the transition.