The decision on who will lead the largest school system in the nation is one that is being eagerly anticipated in New York City, where a new mayor will take office in two weeks.
For Bill de Blasio, the mayor elect, the selection of a schools chancellor is the second most important personnel decision he will make, along with that of the police commissioner. New York's public schools educate more than 1 million students, more than 75 percent of them African-American and Latino.
So, in neighborhoods throughout the city’s five boroughs, many are eager to see whether the new chancellor will deal with such issues as the growth in charter schools, the declining level of African-American students in the city’s elite and specialized schools and the pervasive use of tests to determine the performance of schools.
Also, there is the highly anticipated question of how the new mayor will deal with the system’s huge workforce of teachers, employees who have worked without a contract for the last four years.
“Whoever the next chancellor is will help chart the educational direction of 1 million students, a substantial portion of whom are children of color,” said William C. Thompson, a former New York City comptroller and former Board of Education President, in an interview with BET.com.
“It’s important, given the focus on testing in the last few years, that there is someone who can take this school system in the right direction, someone who can bring a balance to things,” said Thompson, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor this year.
In many quarters of New York City’s political landscape, there is mounting pressure on de Blasio to name an African-American or Latino schools chancellor, particularly after the mayor-elect selected white men to serve as the police commissioner and as his first deputy mayor.
“Having a Black or Latino person in the position should be a strong consideration,” said City Councilman Robert Jackson, who is chairman of the Council’s Education Committee, speaking with BET.com.
“It’s important that leadership of our city be reflective of the diversity of this city,” Jackson said. “There is talk out there in the political world and the world of social media asking: 'When will he appoint some women and people of color?' It’s becoming an issue.”
One of the educators whom the mayor-elect has reached out to is Kaya Henderson, the chancellor of the Washington, D.C., school system and an African-American educator. But Henderson said recently that she was not inclined to accept the position if it were to be offered.
The incoming mayor has strong views about education, including the idea that there is no need for additional charter schools and that there is an over reliance on standardized testing.
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