Frank Macchiarola, a former schools chancellor who shook up the system under Mayor Ed Koch, died Wednesday at the age of 71. He spent five years running the city's schools, but he remained deeply involved in the city's civic life in the decades that followed. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Frank Macchiarola is best known for his work with the city's public schools. Mayor Ed Koch appointed him Schools Chancellor in 1978. He stayed on the job for five years. He ended social promotion for fourth and seventh graders and pushed out more than half of the city's high school principals.
"He was an extraordinary man, I think the best of the chancellors of the modern era," said Mayor Ed Koch.
His reforms were not always popular. Parents protesting the closure of a school in Queens called him "Ayatollah Macchiarola."
"He didn't look for fights, but what he did was to say, 'I know a lot about this business. Otherwise I wouldn't be in it. And I'm not going to be pushed around by the UFT or by the parents. I'm going to listen, but I am going to do what I ultimately believe is in the best interest of the children,'" Koch said. "And he did."
When he ran for City Comptroller in 1989, he called himself the "Fighting Professor." That slogan was a nod to his roots in academia. He was a professor at Columbia University and at CUNY, and he was dean of Cardozo Law School for five years.
In 1996, he began serving as president of his alma mater, St. Francis College. He held the position for 12 years.
More recently, Mayor Michael Bloomberg drew him back into city government. He chaired the mayor's 2003 Charter Revision Commission, and the mayor had him mediate the Broadway workers' strike that same year. John LoCicero, a longtime friend of Macchiarola's from the Koch administration said it was a fitting role.
"He could get a couple of people around a table and talk," LoCicero said. "He had a nice soft voice. He wasn't hostile. He always tried to get people to work with him."
Bloomberg said in a statement that Macchiarola was as comfortable in academia as he was in the rough-and-tumble world of politics and was never afraid to stand up for the ideas he believed in.