The publishing executive poised to take over the nation's largest school system sought to move on from questions about her lack of education experience as she greeted students and teachers Tuesday, but she told a group of first-graders that she is a bit nervous about the job.
Hearst Magazines chairwoman Cathie Black was at a high-performing Bronx elementary school for her first public appearance since her appointment was announced weeks ago. On Monday, the state granted her a waiver to bypass a requirement that chancellors have credentials as educators.
The 66-year-old Black declared Tuesday "the beginning of a new era" and brushed aside questions about having no education experience.
"That was yesterday and today's today, and I'm the new chancellor," Black said.
She officially takes over from outgoing chancellor Joel Klein on Jan. 3.
Black and Mayor Michael Bloomberg greeted arriving students together. After the mayor left, Black spent about 30 minutes inside the school, visiting classrooms and meeting with the principal and teachers.
She read the book "Caps for Sale" to a group of first-graders, and also told the children that she was a little nervous, like they might have felt on their first day of school, Principal Amanda Blatter said afterward.
Media were not allowed inside for the visit.
Black told reporters in a brief news conference that her greatest challenge will be budget constraints, but she declined to discuss other specific education issues.
"It is my first day, and so I'll get to understand it," Black said. "All of these things are very important and challenging questions and we'll come up with what we believe are the right answers."
She said she plans other school visits to meet teachers, parents and kids.
"I'm very much an outreach person, historically, and I look forward to it, because that's where I'm going to learn more," she said.
Bloomberg announced Klein's resignation and his pick for a replacement three weeks ago without any notice, surprising even some officials within the administration.
With no credentials as an educator, Black needed the waiver from state education Commissioner David Steiner, and an advisory panel recommended last week that he deny it. But Steiner indicated he would give the green light if Bloomberg elevated a deputy chancellor with an education background.
The mayor eventually agreed to create the position of chief academic officer as a no. 2 to Black, appointing Shael Polakow-Suransky, a former teacher and principal who is currently deputy chancellor for performance and accountability.
Bloomberg said Polakow-Suransky, 38, would oversee instructional programs and the implementation of major educational policies.