New York state's education commissioner gave Dennis Walcott the go-ahead Thursday to serve as New York City's schools chancellor, citing Walcott's distinguished career and "the depth and breadth" of his knowledge of educational issues.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Walcott to head the city's 1.1 million-pupil school system last week after publishing executive Cathie Black resigned.
Walcott needed a waiver from Commissioner David Steiner, as Black did, because he is not a licensed school superintendent.
But unlike Black, who had no background as an educator, Walcott has been a classroom teacher and holds master's degrees in education and social work. He also started a mentoring program for boys and served as CEO of the Urban League before he joined Bloomberg's administration as a deputy mayor in 2002.
Steiner said in his decision Thursday that Walcott "has had a long and distinguished career as a leader in private not-for-profit organizations and in public service."
He noted that much of Walcott's experience is education-related and "demonstrates a deep knowledge of the New York City school system."
"Dennis Walcott has been working his entire life to help New York City's schoolchildren, and I am confident that experience will help him build on the successful reform efforts of the past nine years and improve our classrooms for the generations to come," Bloomberg said in a statement.
Bloomberg announced his choice of Walcott on April 7 after Black resigned.
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said that regardless of who is chancellor, the union opposes some of the Bloomberg administration's policies, such as closing struggling schools rather than trying to improve them and focusing increasingly on standardized tests.
But Mulgrew said he has enjoyed a good relationship with Walcott over the years. He said he and Walcott spearheaded a career and technical education task force that created several innovative vocational schools.