Nov. 27 (Bloomberg) -- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Cathie Black, a publishing executive he named to run the nation’s biggest school system, will get a state waiver to let her take the job after they agreed to appoint an academic deputy, according to a person familiar with the situation.
State Education Commissioner David Steiner agreed to grant the waiver on Nov. 29 after Bloomberg said Black would name an educator as a chief academic officer, the person said yesterday.
Black will make Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky the system’s academic chief, according to a letter addressed to Steiner and released by the mayor’s office yesterday. In return, Bloomberg asked Steiner to give Black the waiver she needs, as a noneducator, to become schools chancellor.
“This is the approach that I have brought to City Hall, empowering agency heads and -- in turn -- expecting them to empower their staffs,” Bloomberg said in the letter. Black’s decision to appoint an academic deputy “reflects her commitment to a leadership principle that I view as absolutely essential to running any large organization.”
Bloomberg appointed Black, 66, chancellor of the city’s schools on Nov. 9 after Joel Klein resigned from the position. She is chairman of the Hearst Corp. unit that produces Esquire, Cosmopolitan and more than a dozen other magazines and has spent her working life in the publishing industry. Now chief accountability officer, Polakow-Suransky’s career “encompasses educational expertise,” Bloomberg said in his letter.
Panel Urged Denial
An advisory panel named to weigh Black’s qualifications urged Steiner to deny the waiver, the Associated Press said Nov. 23. On Nov. 24, the New York Times said Steiner would give Black the certificate she needs only if Bloomberg appointed an educator to help her run the system.
Steiner has Bloomberg’s letter and doesn’t have a comment, Tom Dunn, a spokesman for the commissioner, said yesterday.
Polakow-Suransky received a bachelor of arts in education and urban studies from Brown University and has a masters degree in educational leadership from the Bank Street College of Education, Bloomberg said in his letter. He holds a state District Administrator certificate and was a fellow at the Broad Superintendents Academy in 2008, Bloomberg said.
Critics of Black’s hiring include Charles Barron, a member of the City Council, who said she lacked sufficient educational experience, according to WNYC-FM, a noncommercial radio station in Manhattan. Bloomberg, 68, has made improving the city’s schools a hallmark of his administration.
By an almost 2-to-1 margin, city voters said Black doesn’t have the right experience to be chancellor, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Nov. 23.
“I am confident that I have chosen the right person,” the mayor told reporters in Manhattan after the survey was published. “It’s not a popularity contest. One-third of our budget goes to schools, and you want someone who has financial and managerial experience.”
The mayor, who took office in 2002 and has three years remaining in what he has said will be his final term, is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
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