2010-11-19 / Editorial/Opinion

You’ve Got To Know The Territory

The news that Schools Chancellor Joel Klein was leaving his job at the end of the year to go to work for Rupert Murdoch at News Corp was a shocker. Mayor Bloomberg’s choice for his replacement was even more of a shocker and has parents and editorialists scratching their heads with wonder. Could the mayor have found somebody less qualified to take the reins of the school system? We don’t think so. There is no doubt that Cathie Black is a dynamic, focused manager who has done wonders in the publishing business, driving both newspapers and magazines to new highs. We have to ask, however, what that means in terms of running the largest school system in the nation. The mantra pushed by business schools that a pure manager can manage anything has led us to where the business world finds itself today – in decline and in crisis. When Professor Harold Hill was running around the Midwest selling boy’s bands, he was proving once again the old drummer adage, “You’ve got to know the territory” in order to be successful. Plainly speaking, Black does not know the territory. Look at what Joel Klein, a high-stakes attorney, brought the city in his eight years of running the system. We know now that the rising test scores on which he built his reputation were all lies, driven by dropping the number of right answers needed to achieve success. We know now that our students have been deprived of several vital content area subjects – social studies, science, foreign language, art, music – in order to make it seem as though Bloomberg and Klein’s tenure has been a success. We don’t need more of that. We need a chancellor who knows about parental involvement, curriculum, testing, what it’s like to be in a classroom facing 32 children with varying needs and learning styles. That is why the state legislature passed a law years ago requiring that a district superintendent have three years of teaching experience and graduate work in education. The state education department waived the rule for Klein. And look what it brought us. The state should not make the same mistake twice. Black’s waiver must be turned down so that the mayor can be taught that the schools chancellor has to know the territory.

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