The new chancellor of the nation's largest public school system attended Catholic schools as a child, sent her children to a private boarding school, and lists her service on a charter-school advisory board as her only educational-leadership pedigree.
If Hearst Magazines Chairwoman Cathie Black's predecessor — also a non-educator but credited with improving New York City schools — is any example, that hole in the resume doesn't disqualify her.
Her appointment this week as New York schools chancellor "seems to be a continuation of Mayor Bloomberg's predisposition toward choosing people that he views as good managers regardless of their expertise in education," said Aaron Pallas, a professor at Columbia University's Teachers College.
A billionaire media entrepreneur himself, Michael Bloomberg had no experience in government when he first ran for mayor in 2001. He's now in his third term.
Like his 2002 appointment of outgoing Chancellor Joel Klein, Bloomberg's choice of Black reflects his conviction that private-sector savvy is the best qualification for a leadership role in city administration.
Klein, a lawyer who served as an assistant U.S. attorney general in the Clinton administration, had no background in education when he took over the department in 2002. During his eight-year tenure, he closed 91 underperforming schools, opened 474 new ones and ended so-called social promotion for failing students.
Bloomberg and Klein said rising scores on standardized tests proved their methods were working, but state education officials said in the spring that student progress on the statewide tests had been overstated because the tests had become too easy.
Unlike Black, raised in Chicago, Klein grew up in New York City and attended public schools. As chancellor, he often clashed with unions and with parent groups that complained of being denied a role in running the schools.
Black's appointment to the $250,000-a-year job will require a waiver from the state Education Department because she is not an educator. She will take over when Klein leaves before the new year to take a position with News Corp.