Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Black and Blue

We've updated this post on the heels of the stunning slam dunking of the Cathie Black waiver request-and we owe the panel and the commissioner an apology for the snarky discrediting. Gotham Schools has the jaw dropping and unexpected turn of events: "In a rebuke to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an eight-member panel of education experts recommended this evening that State Education Commissioner David Steiner deny publishing executive Cathleen Black a waiver to become the next schools chancellor. And Steiner told the panel that his own preference is to wait to grant the waiver until the city also installs a top educator with some independent power, the panel’s chair said."

Wow! And now the Times weighs in on the reversal of fortune-updating its own online account that was written before the panel vote: "The candidacy of Cathleen P. Black, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s choice to be chancellor of New York City schools, was in jeopardy on Tuesday as both a panel weighing her credentials and the state official who will determine her fate expressed deep doubts about her readiness for the job."

Commissioner Steiner really manned up here: "But Dr. Steiner did not rule out ruling no entirely, expressing skepticism about Ms. Black’s ability to master the intricacies of the nation’s largest school system. Her cause was further undermined on Tuesday when six of the eight members of a panel Dr. Steiner appointed to evaluate Ms. Black’s background voted to deny granting an exemption. The erosion of support for Ms. Black, a publishing executive, was a serious rebuke to Mr. Bloomberg, who had enlisted powerful business and political allies to lobby Dr. Steiner."

But Steiner did allow the mayor an exit strategy-as we alluded to in our earlier observation that can be found below. The NY Post has this-and with a picture of Black looking just like Dr. Seuss's Grinch: "The panel's vote was a recommendation to State Education Commissioner David Steiner, who is tasked with making the final determination. But he told reporters yesterday that he was the one who urged them to vote "not at this time," -- suggesting that his final decision may put the ball back in Bloomberg's court."

Which brings us back to our first observations...
The NY Times is reporting that State Ed Commissioner David Steiner is looking for a graceful exit strategy on Mayor Bloom berg's waiver request for Cathie Black. Steiner, feeling the heat from a formerly somnolent public, is suggesting that he might deny Black a waiver -unless: "David M. Steiner, New York State’s education commissioner, has deep concerns about the selection of Cathleen P. Black, a publishing executive, to be chancellor of the New York City schools and will reject her appointment unless an educator is installed to help her run the system, according to a person familiar with the discussions."

In our view, this is not a bad finesse move-and takes away some of the heat Steiner's been feeling because of the slipshod manner in which he appointed the waiver review panel. Making this even more delectable, is the handkerchief swat across the punin Steiner is giving to His Highness: "Dr. Steiner’s move would be a sharp rebuke to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has worked feverishly to rally support for Ms. Black, the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, enlisting powerful business and political allies to lobby Dr. Steiner."

Your move, Mr. Mayor-and, for someone not used to insubordination from his lessors, this could lead to pyrotechnics: "But believing Ms. Black’s inexperience in education to be a liability, Dr. Steiner intends to deny the mayor’s request unless Mr. Bloomberg agrees to appoint a chief academic officer to oversee teaching, learning and accountability and serve as the No. 2 person to Ms. Black."

And now Steiner-leaking like a sieve-is expressing the following: "But despite the considerable pressure, Dr. Steiner, a former dean of the Hunter College School of Education, remained unconvinced. From the start, he was “deeply troubled” by Mr. Bloomberg’s choice, the individual said, and he worried that she would be unable to master the intricacies of curriculum, assessment and the overhaul of failing schools."

Given the mayor's far reaching clout, Steiner may have found a way for him to save face: "Dr. Steiner, according to the individual, believes a compromise could satisfy Mr. Bloomberg while also helping to allay the concerns of parents, teachers and students, who have expressed reservations about Ms. Black and the highly secretive process leading up to her appointment."

It will be fascinating to see Mike Bloomberg's response to the push back: "It is possible that Mr. Bloomberg may be able to satisfy Dr. Steiner’s request by simply promoting someone within the Department of Education. But the mayor has traditionally resisted outside efforts to meddle in his decisions."

Unused to any checks and balances, that is. We just might have misjudged Steiner-and the supine panel certainly sat up and barked loudly.