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State Education Commissioner Selects Advisory Panel To Consider Black Waiver

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The head of the state Department of Education named on Friday an eight-member panel to screen publishing executive Cathie Black, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's selection for schools chancellor.

By law, the state education commissioner must grant a waiver to a chancellor candidate who does not have the experience required.

Earlier this week, Bloomberg sent State Education Commissioner David Steiner a request for that waiver that would allow Black to serve.

To help make the decision on whether to grant the exception, Steiner has convened a panel to be led by Dr. Susan Fuhrman, president of Teachers College. She has received tens of millions of dollars in city Department of Education contracts, including one worth $16 million signed this year.

Three of these eight panelists worked directly for outgoing Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, as some of his closest advisors.

Dr. Andres Alonso, who is currently the CEO of Baltimore's schools, served under Klein as the chief of staff and then deputy chancellor for teaching and learning.

Jean-Claude Brizard, superintendent of the Rochester City School District, served under Klein as a superintendent for three different city districts.

Michele Cahill of the Carnegie Corporation was Klein's senior policy counselor and a member of his leadership team responsible for reorganizing the entire system.

All three left Klein's administration in 2007.

Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New York Historical Society and former CUNY chancellor, is on the board of the Leadership Academy, which was founded by the mayor and outgoing chancellor.

The other panelists are Dr. Ronald Ferguson, a professor at Harvard University; Bernard Pierorazio, superintendent of the Yonkers Public Schools; and Kenneth Slentz, associate commissioner for the Office of District Services for the New York State Education Department.

There are no parents or parent representatives on the committee, which will likely spark criticism.

A spokesperson for the state DOE said the agency values the panelists' experience, saying, "Naturally, it was important to have panelists with New York City school system knowledge and experience."

Cahill also has personal experience with the waiver process. In 2004, Klein sought a waiver for Cahill to become a deputy chancellor, although she had little experience as an educator. The state turned him down.

When Klein was appointed to be chancellor, he also needed a waiver.

Steiner has not given a timeline for when the waiver process for Black will be completed.

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