Saturday, November 13, 2010

letter from civil rights leaders Norman Siegel and Michael Meyers re the Cathie Black appointment

The appointment of Cathie Black as chancellor, a magazine executive who sent her children to private schools and has no education background, is an important turning point in the history of the Bloomberg administration. Why?

It has provoked a firestorm of controversy, with the rest of the city waking up to how the mayor uses his money, power and influence to disregard the normal rules of civil conduct. An editorial in El Diario is good example of the widespread disgust. This citywide moment of clarity has occurred only two times before: when Bloomberg fired three members of the PEP who disagreed with him immediately before a critical vote, and when he announced his intention to overturn term limits.

Parents and education advocates have long known and their kids have long suffered from the way in which the mayor behaves as though the public schools are his personal fiefdom, to do with whatever he wants, regardless of what research shows and how parents, educators, and the advocacy community feel. Finally, New Yorkers as a whole are realizing the damage represented by his autocratic behavior. It is a critical moment in time that must be act upon by joining together to reject this appointment and the abuse of power it represents.


1. First sign onto the letter below, written by civil rights attorney Norman Siegel and Michael Meyers, director of the NY Civil Rights Coalition, and join us in a press conference tomorrow, Sunday Nov.14 at 1 PM in front of Tweed. The letter clearly shows how the mayor's selection of Black, done in secrecy and without any public process, is inconsistent with the principles of equal employment which have governed candidate searches in the public and private sector for more than three decades -- to ensure that qualified individuals with diverse backgrounds were fully considered before making a final determination.

If you'd like to sign onto this letter, just send your name and any affiliation to before 10 AM Sunday morning.

2. Then sign the NYC Kids PAC petition. Even if you've signed onto other petitions already, please sign this one as it doesn't just sit there, it automatically sends messages to all the key education policymakers in Albany, including Commissioner Steiner, who will make the final decision as to whether to approve Ms. Black's waiver. As of this morning, it has nearly 1200 signatures, and had generated over 10,000 emails to Albany in 2 1/2 days.

3. Attend the PEP meeting Tuesday night at Brooklyn Tech and make your voice heard! Come at 5:30 PM to sign up to speak; and join the movement in opposition to the mayor's abuse of power. (directions.)


Dear Commissioner Steiner:

We the undersigned concerned citizens, parents of public school students, and current and former public school students and teachers of New York City are outraged by the recent action of Mayor Michael Bloomberg in announcing his choice for the next Chancellor of the New York City Public Schools, one Cathleen P. Black, without even having conducted a public search for the best qualified candidates. It is shocking to us that his choice, Ms. Black, appears to lack not only teaching experience but is lacking any of the educational credentials and qualifications for the appointment to the major post of a school superintendent in New York State.

Because the leader of the New York City Schools is critical to the raising of academic achievement levels of our children, and because we believe in equal opportunity as the best process for recruiting and evaluating competitive candidates for a job that deserves excellence—consistent with your own efforts to raise standards for teachers, staff and students—we respectfully and strongly urge you to hold the Mayor’s appointee to the standards and qualifications set out in the statute for school superintendents. Accordingly, we urge that you deny the City’s anticipated request on behalf of Ms. Cathleen Black for a waiver from these qualifications.

We stress the impropriety of there being no public search whatsoever for this top educator’s position. On the very day and at the very hour that incumbent Chancellor Joel Klein’s resignation was announced, Mayor Bloomberg announced Mr. Klein’s successor. Hence, there was no opening that was advertised; no recruitment period for applications; and no equal opportunity process for qualified candidates of any race and both genders to apply and to be considered for this top educational post.

The fact that Mayor Bloomberg did not undertake a public search in accordance with equal employment opportunity principles in itself raises significant public policy issues, as well as the specter of cronyism. How can it be that the position of leader of one of the nation’s largest school systems can be filled in such a cavalier manner—without any kind of notice or recruitment period for the consideration of capable and talented individuals—persons who are educators, who have the statutory qualifications and certification, and the requisite experience and skills to understand the best practices of pedagogy? The school superintendent for the New York City School District should have knowledge of curriculum and instruction and assessment, as well as extensive teaching experience.

At a time our school children deserve only the best qualified people at the top of the school system and throughout the ranks of the teaching, supervisory and administrative staff of our public schools, at a time minority group children in particular are not performing at grade levels much less with proficiency in core subjects, and at a time this city is mired in disputes as to the accuracy of testing data and about appropriate educational strategies, it is especially important that we have someone at the helm who can deal with these issues with expertise and authority.

Given that the city school system is rank with systemic segregation by race and ethnicity—and Mayoral control has been sharply criticized for inattentiveness to due process, and for refusing to provide for meaningful parental involvement in decisions affecting the welfare of their children, it is even more necessary for the citizens and parents of New York City to be confident that the next Schools Chancellor is the most capable and qualified person available for the job, and that the process was open to all segments of the population and not just a crony of the Mayor.

In these circumstances, and because we are shocked and appalled that no public search for qualified candidates was even conducted, we urge you to reject the City of New York’s request for a waiver for Ms. Black, thereby forcing the City to conduct a real search and to consider diverse candidates for this top educational post. That is how you got your job—and it is how the next Schools Chancellor—whoever he or she may be—should and must earn this City’s top educator’s post.

A nationwide search for capable candidates will undoubtedly produce qualified persons worthy of meeting the challenges of reforming the New York City public school system and capable of bringing into existence a system of high expectations and achievement for students, teachers, and staff. Excellence has to be the standard for all “stakeholders” in our school system—students, teachers, their supervisors, administrators, and school superintendents alike.

We urge you to do the right thing; reject the waiver request and give clear instructions and guidance to the City of New York that you will not consider candidates for this post that have not been recruited and vetted through a genuine search process in which all qualified applicants may be considered and evaluated on their merits.

Norman Siegel, civil rights attorney
Michael Meyers, Director , NY Civil Rights Coalition
Leonie Haimson, Executive Director, Class Size Matters and NYC public school parent

(add your name by emailing it to by 10 AM, Sun. November 14)


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Anonymous said...

Siegel, Meyers, and Haimson are, yet again, on the wrong side of history. Put a quarter of the effort you guys are expending on protesting Cathie Black into looking for solutions to the recent Black Boys report from the Council of the Great City Schools (see below), and then we'll talk. Until then, just step out of the way so those of us doing this work can continue to do it.

And if you say small class size is one such solution, I've got way too many examples of high-achieving low-income schools around the country demonstrating that small class sizes doesn't even rank in the top 10 of best practices.

Put a quarter of your Cathie Black effort into finding solutions for Black boys and low income kids and then we can talk.

Anonymous said...

my goodness. put the same energy and time and obvious mental acumen into helping set policies--real policies, not these "small class size" peripheral arguments--for low-income kids. then we can do amazing things.

what a waste of energy, time, and clear smarts. shame.

what? we want another harold levy? rudy crew? ramon cortines?

please no!