Cathie Black Resigns as New York City Schools Chancellor

Three-month tenure was beset with verbal gaffes and an employee exodus.

Posted: 04/07/2011 06:38 PM EDT
Filed Under education

Cathie Black

In a case of trial by fire gone terribly wrong, New York City School's Chancellor Cathie Black resigned today after a three-month tenure beset with verbal gaffes and an employee exodus.

Black was appointed to the position by Mayor Michael Bloomberg last November amid a wave of controversy due to her lack of experience in education. A Marist College/NY1 poll released on Monday showed that Black's approval rating had dropped to a dismal 17 percent.

During her time as chancellor, Black was in charge of managing more than 1.1 million students, 1,600 schools and a $21 million operating budget. In addition, Black also had to deal with New York schools ongoing problems including overcrowding, a battle with the teacher's union over tenure rules and layoffs, and questionable high school dropout and graduation rates. In fact, although it was reported that graduation rates were on the rise in 2008, a reporting discrepancy showed the graduation was lower than first reported (62.9 percent and 63.6  percent instead of 65 percent) and the dropout rate was higher (15.5 percent and 16.5 percent instead of 13 percent). The statistics are worse for African-Americans. According to the Schott Report, only 28 percent of Black males graduate high school on time.

It was puzzling as to why Mayor Bloomberg would choose someone with no education experience. Citing her success in the private sector as a publishing executive at Hearst Magazines, Bloomberg felt Black was just what New York Schools needed, calling her a “superstar manager.” Today the mayor found himself backtracking on his glowing endorsement, refusing to go into the specifics of his conversation with Black.

“I will say I take full responsibility for the fact that this has not worked out as either of us had hoped and expected," Bloomberg said. "But now it is time to look forward, not back, and ensure that we don't waste a single one of the 999 days that we have left out."

Two weeks after Black began as chancellor, she was recorded telling parents that birth control was a viable solution to the serious problem of overcrowding in New York schools. While she claimed it was a joke, it did little to endear her to the constituencies of parents and teachers. In February, she was welcomed with a chorus of boos and negative comments by angry parents and teachers during a forum of school closings. Bloomberg promptly came to her defense admonishing the hecklers in a press conference. Finally, Deputy Chancellor John White's announcement came of his departure from the Board of Education, the fourth high-level deputy to leave after Black's appointment.

In a statement Black said, "It has become increasingly apparent that my ability to serve successfully as the chancellor of New York City Schools is not possible."

Bloomberg has named Dennis Walcott, deputy mayor of education as Black's successor. A native New Yorker who has attended New York schools, holds several degrees in education and social work and helped to oversee the Department of Education. He will have to get a waiver from the state to become the new chancellor, since he lacks three years of teaching experience, a state requirement.

(Photo: Jan Somma Hamme /Landov)