Sunlight Should Shine on Education Actions

By Gabe Pressman
|  Thursday, Nov 11, 2010  |  Updated 6:00 PM EDT
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Sunlight Should Shine on Education Actions

AP

Michael Bloomberg introduces the new Chancellor of Public Schools, Cathie Black. Has the mayor turned his back on the parents?

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How do you choose a new chancellor to run the city’s school system? You shut out the parents. You shut out the leaders of the teachers. You shut out members of your own administration. You shut out the press.

You shut out everybody but the person you’re appointing. You don’t tell anybody, even the man being replaced, Joel Klein, until 30 minutes before the announcement of his successor.

You have so many shutouts, if this were baseball and you were a pitcher, you’d be eligible for a Cy Young award.

If the Bloomberg administration were a patient, a psychiatrist might suspect it was suffering from paranoia. But I don’t think it is. This is just the way they do things in the age of Bloomberg.

The process was described fully in an article by two fine reporters, Michael Barbaro and David Chen, in the New York Times.
 

The list of people the Mayor didn’t consult on his choice is impressive:  Merryl Tisch, the Chancellor of the state Board of Regents, Eric Nadelstern, the city’s deputy chancellor and 39-year veteran of the school system, Michelle Rhee, a much heralded education reformer who recently left the Washington school system.

A curtain covers much of the activities of this administration. There’s been occasional talk about transparency---but we haven’t seen any of it. The Mayor has press conferences but he rations each reporter to one question only---and that definitely limits the area of discussion. 

When the Mayor was making his decision about appointing Cathleen Black to succeed Klein, there were strenuous efforts to cover up the deliberations.

Since Klein and Bloomberg took over the school system, they have been carrying out a boycott. The object of their boycott: the parents. Right after they took over they fired some parents on an advisory panel for having the chutzpah to stand up to the new czar of education, the Mayor, and his deputy czar, the Chancellor.

Ironically, the Mayor built his multi-billion dollar business by pursuing data and news and distributing it. If any man should respect the freedom afforded by the First Amendment, it should be Bloomberg. But freedom of the press or speech is not something he fights for -- nor does he agree with Voltaire that he will “defend to the death” the right of his critics to criticize him.

There are 1.1 million school children in New York. The new school administration could get off to a good start if the new chancellor, Cathleen Black, chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, appointed a committee of parents to advise her on the issues confronting the school system. If she follows in the footsteps of her predecessor, that isn’t likely to happen.

She’ll fit right in with the rich folks who attend the parties the Mayor frequents on the East Side. As the Times reporters pointed out, Bloomberg searched and ultimately found “a fellow media mogul whose social life and business interests cross-pollinate neatly with his own.”

The parents of this city are looking for a chancellor to whom they can relate. They’re looking for a chancellor who can relate to them.

The boycott of the parents must end. No constituency in the city is more important that they are. When education was centralized, we were promised a new, progressive era. It hasn’t happened. And I fear it won’t.

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