Bowing to the painfully obvious, even the stacked panel assembled by Commissioner Steiner voted to deny Cathie Black the waiver she needs to overcome her utter lack of qualifications to be NYC's schools chancellor. But our very clever Commissioner had something up his sleeve: he gave the panel a third choice besides "yes" or "no": a co-chancellorship of sorts with someone who actually knows something about education. Bloomberg promptly submitted a revised waiver application, adding man with education credentials Shael Polakow-Suransky to help out the corporate exec formerly billed as the only person who could do the tough job of NYC schools chancellor.
What good can come of this scenario?
Looking through the very long list of things Suransky will be responsible for, one can’t help but ask: will there be anything left for Cathie Black to do besides wielding the budget ax? That certainly entails “difficult decisions” (as Bloomberg never tires of reminding us), but it’s hardly worth the highest salary in the city. Ms. Black should have the decency to cut her salary to $1/year, which she can certainly afford and will go a ways towards plugging that gaping “public interest” hole in her résumé (at the press conference announcing her appointment, Bloomberg actually talked about her husband’s public service, LOL).
And why is this new position--formally, Senior Deputy and Chief Academic Officer-- necessary? At the press conference, Bloomberg dismissed all questions about Black’s lack of credentials or prior interest in education by claiming she would rely on the formidable cadre of education experts put together by Klein, especially the deputy chancellors. Suransky is already a Deputy Chancellor and Chief Accountability Officer--why does he need a different title if Black was going to rely on him and the rest of her team (including presumably former Klein heir-apparent Eric Nadelstern) for all things education anyway? It's also worth noting that the very qualities that make a good CEO don’t make a good team player (that’s quite different from getting subordinates to work as a team); many companies have tried the dual-CEO route, often after a merger--–it doesn’t work. The Economist recently summed it up this way ("The Trouble with Tandems"):
Almost all these relationships have ultimately come unstuck. That should hardly come as a surprise because joint stewardships are all too often a recipe for chaos. Rather than allowing companies to get the best from both bosses, they trigger damaging internal power struggles as each jockeys for the upper hand. Having two people in charge can also make it tougher for boards to hold either to account. At the very least, firms end up footing the bill for two chief-executive-sized pay packets.
Why should we believe DOE is any different? Especially since the very logic of naming Cathie Black to lead it is that education should be run like a business?