Incoming NYC Schools Chancellor Asks for "Chance"

"At the end of the day, it is about choice. And we made that choice."

Monday, Dec 6, 2010  |  Updated 8:00 AM EDT
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    The incoming chancellor of New York City's public school system is asking the public to give her a chance to show that she can do the job.

    Publishing executive Cathie Black defended her skills and experience as a manager of large, complex organizations in her first interview, broadcast Sunday on WABC-TV.

    "Give me a chance. I will listen. I will be out in the community," she said. "Don't judge someone that you have never even met."

    The 66-year-old Hearst Magazines chairwoman has faced criticism over her lack of education experience since being appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

    During the interview broadcast Sunday, Black was at times prickly and seemed to sidestep questions about her lack of educational experience, saying the mayor had told her he was seeking a "proven manager" to serve as chancellor.

    "I believe that one of the reasons that the mayor wanted somebody with a different set of skills is that we need to think differently," she said. "It's tough times out there."

    The state granted her a waiver last week to bypass a requirement that chancellors have credentials as educators.

    Speaking about her decision to send her own children to private schools, Black said that "schools in New York City 15 years ago were not at the caliber that they are today."

    "At the end of the day, it is about choice. And we made that choice. But I'm here to serve New York City's 1.1 million children in the most effective way, to give their parents choice to choose the best schools possible," she said.

    She defended mayoral control of the city and deflected questions about the transparency of her selection. "I can't talk about the process," she said.

    She was critical of teacher tenure, saying she couldn't imagine saying to somebody at age 24 or 25 that they "have lifetime guarantee for this position, just show up every day. It's inconceivable."

    When the interviewer hinted that such a view might stir up resentment from teachers, she was resolute.

    "If children first is really at the heart of what a teacher should be doing, there should be ways that we can work at this," she responded.

    Asked how she felt about the opposition to her selection, she said she did not take it personally and felt that critics were simply "venting their own anger" because they do not know her personally.

    "None of this is going to change the outcome," she said. "So let's go forward — together."

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