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Mayor, State Ed Officials Reach Deal Over Schools Chancellor Waiver

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A deal has been reached between city and state education officials regarding Mayor Michael Bloomberg's appointment of Cathie Black as the next schools chancellor, NY1 has learned.

According to the mayor's office, Black will be granted a waiver to be chancellor, as long as she serves with a chief executive officer with direct experience in the city's education system.

The waiver is required by law for Black to become chancellor, since the publishing executive does not have the traditional education certification.

On Tuesday, an eight-member advisory panel recommended that State Education Commissioner David Steiner deny the publishing mogul the wavier.

Steiner later told NY1 he had reservations about Black's qualifications, but also said he would be willing to grant it if she served with a deputy chancellor.

The mayor's office says Black will appoint Shael Polakow-Suransky, 38, a long-time city educator who currently serves as deputy chancellor for Accountability and Performance at the Department of Education.

In the new letter to Steiner, Bloomberg says the appointment of Polakow-Suransky was Black's idea saying, in part, "Ms. Black has told me that she intends to have a Senior Deputy Chancellor/Chief Academic Officer throughout her tenure as Chancellor, because she has decided that as a management matter there should be a single Deputy, reporting directly to her as Chancellor, overseeing all pedagogic matters."

Polakow-Suransky, who has worked as a teacher and principal, is a Brown University graduate who holds a master's degree from the Bank Street College of Education and has a supervisor's certificate.

In 2001, Polakow-Suransky opened the Bronx International High School, which focused on the specific needs of recent immigrants who were just learning English.

In 2004, he became vice president for Academic Affairs in the DOE's office of New Schools.

Last year, he became deputy chief schools officer for the Division of School Support, before being appointed to his current post in Accountability and Performance.

Under Black, the mayor's office says Polakow-Suransky will oversee instructional programs and the implementation of major educational policies. He will also advise Black on policy issues relating to curriculum, testing, and evaluation.

Some lawmakers, though, are questioning whether state law can allow Black can get a waiver based partly on somebody else's experience in education.

"The law is very clear and the requirement for the position of chancellor, and what is being proposed and what is being implemented is a sham, really," said Bronx Assemblyman Marcos Crespo. "This is the chief academic officer, someone who would have already been basically working in partnership with whoever would have been chancellor, and to just give them a different title and say they will have leeway is an insult to the intelligence of the community."

"You are selling a dangerous precedence when you say someone else's credentials can get you in," said Brooklyn Councilwoman Charles Barron. "So none of us have to be qualified for anything."

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew had only positive things to say about the new second-in-command, saying in a statement Friday, "We've worked well with Mr. Polakow-Suransky in the past, and we look forward to working with him and Ms. Black in the future on the critical issues."

The mayor's office submitted a job description for the new position, saying the "Chief Academic Officer" would be "under the supervision of the Chancellor, with the broadest scope for the exercise of independent initiative and judgment." It is presently unclear how much independence the chief academic officer will have.

An official familiar with the matter tells NY1 that Steiner will accept the waiver request on Monday.

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