Thursday, December 30, 2010

Many Challenges Ahead for Cathie Black by Bryan Yurcan - Queens Chronicle

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Cathie Black, left, tours Hillside High School with Assemblyman Rory Lancman and Councilman James Gennaro earlier this month. FILE PHOTO

When Cathie Black presumably assumes the post of New York City schools chancellor on Jan. 1, she will have a lot on her plate.

Several Queens officials, educators and administrators weighed in with the Queens Chronicle about what they think some of the biggest challenges Black will face.

Black was appointed by Mayor Bloomberg when current Chancellor Joel Klein abruptly announced he was resigning from his post Nov. 9 and said he was leaving to take an executive position at media giant News Corp., whose properties include the Fox News Channel and the Wall Street Journal.

Klein has said he would stay on until the end of the year to help ease Black’s transition.

Black was granted a waiver by the state Education Department since she does not have the proper educational certification to serve in the post.

Two lawsuits, which were filed by groups opposing Black’s nomination, seek to nullify the waiver she was granted. But barring any decisions in those cases, Black will step into the role of chancellor in the new year.

Dmytro Fedkowskyj, the Queens representative to the Panel for Educational Policy, believes Black’s biggest challenge will be to implement a budget on July 1 that adequately balances the needs of every student.

“The DOE serves a diverse population of students, who range in academicsfromlow-performing togifted and each of their requirements need to bemet in order to achieve an optimal learning experience,” he said.“Given the economic environment, it will bea Herculean taskto get this done forthe more than 1 million studentsthroughoutthe city.”

Black will also have to work with the United Federation of Teachers, an organization that had a sometimes contentious relationship with Klein — and has been working without a contract for more than a year.

Dermot Smyth, the Queens political action coordinator for the UFT, said Black will have a lot of “on-the-job training” once she takes over.

Smyth said one issue that affects Queens, and schools citywide, is the city Department of Education’s plans to phase out and replace several schools that were deemed low-achieving by the state, such as Jamaica High School.

“I hope she will come to realize that closing schools is not always the best option,” Smyth said.

One Queens principal, who wished not to be identified, said Black’s biggest challenge will be improving the education experience for English Language Learner students.

“It’s very, very hard for children with limited English proficiency,” the principal said.

Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) will get the chance to meet with Black firsthand when she conducts a tour of John Adams High School in Ozone Park on Jan. 10.

Ulrich said given the current fiscal situation in the state and city, the chancellor-designate has a tough job ahead of her.

“She faces the enormous challenge of providing quality education to our students while dealing with a very tight budget in the coming fiscal year,” Ulrich said. “I look forward to hearing her ideas on how to improve public schools for all students.”

Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), had the opportunity to meet with Black when she came on a walk through of Hillcrest High School earlier this month.

Lancman said Black has an impressive background as a manager in the corporate world — she served as the president of Hearst Magazines — and hopes those skills translate into her new job running the city’s public school system.

“I think she was chosen because she’s an extraordinarily gifted manager and because she has experience in the professional world,” the assemblyman said. “Hopefully, that will result in students being prepared for the professional world.”

Lancman added, “I don't know that I would have selected her but I am rooting for her.”