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Joel Klein Reflects On Time As Chancellor As De Blasio Continues Search For New One

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With the next schools Chancellor expected to be named in the coming days, the man who held that position for most of the Bloomberg administration spoke out on Thursday about his tenure, and what worries him about the future. NY1’s Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

He's been gone for three years, but the school system Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio is about to inherit is still, mostly, the one Joel Klein built.

Klein went from having no substantive experience in education to being the city's longest serving schools Chancellor and a national leader in education reform, a hero to many, a villain to many others.

He sat down Thursday night at the CUNY Institute for Education Policy to talk with David Steiner, the former State Education Commissioner.

And like Mayor Bloomberg, his boss for nine years, Klein is quick to say that criticism doesn't affect him.

“The noise bothers me least of all,” Klein said.

But now one of his critics is about to take over.

“Suffice to say, it's a changing of the guard,” said Steiner.

Klein admits there are a few things that keep him up at night.

“The charter schools do worry me and worry me profoundly,” Klein said. “Second thing that worries me if the signal goes out to the schools that we won't close schools, no matter what, everyone is going to take a deep breath, sigh of relief and say we’re back to the good old normal days and that worries me. And the third thing that worries me is, and I don't want to get locked into letter grades and the imperfections of the letter grades, but I sure as hell hope that accountability is a part of the going forward.”

Never known to hold his tongue, Klein had lots to say about a wide range of topics: the failure of universities training teachers, the failure of the union model when it comes to education, the failure of classrooms to adapt to the 21st Century. That last one relates directly to his current job, leading an education tech venture with Rupert Murdoch.

What about the centerpiece of Bill de Blasio's education agenda, universal pre-K?

“We have these kids now for 13 years, so adding a 14th year in and of itself, if it’s the same as the other 13, isn't going to do anything and the whole issue is the quality of what happens. Head Start became a jobs program and a babysitting program,” he said.

Any regrets when it comes to his own work?

“We weren't bold enough,” he said.

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