Tuesday, November 16, 2010

PEP Member Patrick Sullivan Letter to Steiner Regarding Black Waiver

November 15th, 2010

Panel for Educational Policy NYC Board of Education 52 Chambers Street New York, NY 10007
David Steiner Commissioner New York State Education Department Washington Avenue Albany, NY 12234

Dear Commissioner Steiner:

Re: Board for Educational Policy Role in Waiver Request Dear Commissioner Steiner,
As a member of the board of education (d.b.a. Panel for Educational Policy) I ask you to withhold consideration of any request for a waiver for the position of Chancellor of the New York City School District from the Bloomberg administration until the board can convene and formally decide to make such a request.

Section 3003 of the state education law requires the board of education to request such a waiver in circumstances where the candidate does not meet the requirement to hold a superintendent of school position:

“The commissioner, at the request of a board of education or board of cooperative educational services, may provide for the issuance of a certificate as superintendent of schools to exceptionally qualified persons who do not meet all of the graduate course or teaching requirements of subdivision one of this section, but whose exceptional training and experience are the substantial equivalent of such requirements and qualify such persons for the duties of a superintendent of schools.” (emphasis added)
At this point, no board member has brought the request to the full board for consideration and the matter is not on our agenda for consideration at this week's meeting. There is no provision in the law for the mayor to request a waiver directly.

There is a clear need for the board openly to review the case for such a waiver. Thousands of public school parents, teachers, their elected representatives and members of the general public have raised a series of grave concerns over the candidacy of the mayor’s designated appointee Cathleen Black for the position. To summarize the issues brought to my attention:
1.    She has no educational qualifications, lacking both teaching and administrative experience. She has no academic credentials in the field of education.
2.    She has no exposure whatsoever to public education. She was educated in private schools and chose to educate her own children in private schools.
3.    She has no experience in the public sector.
4.    No search was conducted for candidates. Many in the public dismiss the selection as simple
5.    There was no consideration of internal candidates despite consensus that some number of
strong candidates is available.
6.    There was no vetting of the candidate. No one interviewed Ms. Black. By her admission
her first discussion of the position followed the offer by the mayor.

To these public concerns I will offer one of my own based on my role in approving budgets for the Department of Education over the last three years. Both Chancellor Joel Klein and Deputy Chancellor for Finance Photeine Anagnostopoulos repeatedly expressed their concern to me about the enormous budget shortfall we face when Federal ARRA stimulus funds are no longer available next year.    I am greatly concerned that someone as unqualified as Ms. Black will be simply unable to guide the school system through the process of funding the department’s operations through what the departing chancellor and deputy chancellor have assured me will be uniquely challenging circumstances.

The city board must meet to discuss whether a waiver is appropriate and a request to your office is warranted. While the mayor's influence is amply exerted through his supermajority on the board, no one should take for granted that a board majority would accede to the waiver request given the widespread and legitimate doubts raised both by the selection process and the candidate herself.

For these reasons, and to maintain the integrity of both the board's your office’s oversight of the education of 1.1 million children, it is essential that we all follow the process as specified by the law.

Patrick J. Sullivan Manhattan Member Panel for Educational Policy New York City Board of Education

Panel for Educational Policy (via email): Hon. Philip A. Berry Hon. Linda Lausell Bryant Hon. Joe Chan
Hon. Joan Correale Hon. Dmytro Fedkowsky
Hon. Tino Hernandez Hon. Monica Major Hon. Tomas Morales Hon. Lisette Nieves Hon. Gbubemi Okotieuro Hon. Gitte Peng
Hon. Robert Reffkin
Hon. Scott Stringer Hon. Robert Jackson Hon. Daniel O’Donnell

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