Mayor Prevails, Black Heads Schools
The 21-day uproar unleashed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s appointment of Cathie Black as the new New York City school chancellor came to a halt yesterday as state Education Commissioner David Steiner granted her the waiver which allows a non-educator to assume day-to-day control of over 1.1 million public school kids in New York City.
But as part of the deal engineered by Steiner, Black will have a chief academic officer by her side when she takes over for Joel Klein, on December 31, who held the post since 2002.
Black’s sidekick, Shael Polakow-Suransky emerged last week when he was appointed deputy chancellor by Bloomberg.
As we said, the new Deputy position emerged when Black failed to receive the waiver from the state board which Steiner heads. Steiner, reportedly to the displeasure of the mayor, insisted that in order to become chancellor, there would have to be someone with the education credentials which she lacked. Polakow-Suransky started out in the New York City school system as a math teacher and rose to become principal of a Bronx high school.
As we said, the mayor doesn’t like anyone messing with his mayoral prerogatives, but Steiner’s solution cleared the way for the mayor’s appointment to be ratified, so why fuss over it.
But just for the record, the mayor set everyone straight just before Steiner’s board granted the waiver.
“There will be one person in charge. Make no mistake about that,” the mayor said.
The mayor announced the appointment of Black, 66, on November 9 and it was a surprise because Klein hadn’t previously announced he was leaving the job.
In a more conciliatory tone, in which he urged everyone to put politics aside, the mayor said in a prepared statement:
“Today’s decision was the right one for our kids and our schools. It is now time to put politics aside and recognize that it is in the best interests of our children for Cathie Black to succeed as Chancellor.”
Black has been the chairman of Hearst Magazines and several other prominent ones before that. Her forte has been marketing and advertising and running large businesses. So she should be right at home running the Department of Education and will then be aided by Polakow- Suransky where the education stuff is concerned.
Basically, the situation is similar to Klein’s situation when the mayor appointed him as the first school chancellor after the state legislature placed the public school system under mayoral control in 2002.
Realistically, Black could have a tough breaking in period since a poll taken about a week ago found that 62 percent of those surveyed didn’t approve of the mayor’s appointment.
So Black will have to win over a lot of people, including the parents or guardians of those 1.1 million school children. But she’s ready to give it a go.
“I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get going,” she declared just after her appointment was finalized with the granting of the waiver.
No doubt today’s editions of the daily papers will show her visiting classrooms and chatting with students and teachers. We wish her good luck in what is a tough and important job. We need her to be successful for the kids’ sake.
MENG CONGRATULATES BLACK: Assemblymember Grace Meng (D–Flushing) congratulated Black on her appointment and added, “In the months ahead, my colleague in the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus [in the state legislature] and I would still like to sit down with Ms. Black in the very near future to get a better understanding of her plans for our city’s public education system.
“With Mr. Shael Polakow-Suransky by her side as chief academic officer, I hope they will both continue to put the interest of our children at the forefront, recognizing that our next generation deserves nothing less than a world class education,” Meng said.
SCHUMER PLEDGES SENATE VOTE ON 9/11 BILL: With the 2010 session in Congress slowly winding down, and with it what many see as the last chance for the U.S. Senate to get a crack at passing the 9/11 bill, Senator Charles Schumer on Monday, November 29, pledged that there will be a vote on this bill.
But the powerful New York lawmaker offered no assurance of the bill’s passage.
Schumer, addressing a group of the city’s police officers in the nation’s capital for another 9/11 related ceremony, stated (according to a Daily News story), “Just as we stepped up to the plate in Congress to help the families of those who perished on 9/11, we should be stepping up to the plate to help those who rushed to danger in the days afterward.”
The House already has passed the measure under the sponsorship of Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan). But there is a special urgency to pass the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act during this lame duck session while the Democrats are in the majority in the Senate because the Republicans are strongly opposed to the bill and it’s expected it won’t stand a chance next year with the GOP in control of the House.
As it stands now, the bill is one vote short of passage in the Senate, where only one Republican has said he will vote for it. So Schumer, who recently was moved up a notch in the Democratic majority in the Upper House, is really under the gun.
The Zadroga bill would provide $7.4 billion for medical care for those who volunteered to work on the cleanup at Ground Zero in the World Trade Center following the 9/11 attack. Many have died from the sicknesses brought on from working in the toxic smog there, and many others came away with serious illnesses.
The Republicans’ objection to the Zadroga bill is that the funding for the medical program would come from closing tax loopholes on foreign companies, which the Republicans consider a tax.
Police officers were in Washington yesterday to unveil a display of the badges of the 29 officers who died since the terrorist attacks. The contingent was led by P.C. Raymond Kelly.
GILLIBRAND WANTS HIKE IN UNEMPLOYED AID: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the sponsor of the 9/11 bill, besides working alongside Schumer to get the Zadroga bill passed, is also trying to drum up support for increasing aid to the unemployed in New York state.
Gillibrand said recently, “People must come together to do what’s right and secure critical assistance for the 200,000 New Yorkers who are out there looking for work.”
SMALL BIZ BACKS MALONEY BILL: Small businesses in New York City, more than two million strong, are rooting hard for a bill co-sponsored by Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) which could bring upwards of several billion more dollars a year to help small businesses. According to the American Small Business League (ASBL), a strong supporter of Maloney’s legislation, there are already two Republican sponsors on it and more backing is being sought.
ASBL says that there’s a law on the books already which requires the federal government to award about 25 percent of the value of prime contracts to small businesses, according to a story in Crain’s Business Weekly, but NYC businesses are not getting their fair share of it. That’s why they’re such a strong supporter of Maloney’s measure.
MAYOR’S LOWER GUN FEES BILL IN TROUBLE: Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign to keep illegal guns out of the city is well known and that’s why his introduction of a bill in the City Council to sharply lower gun fees came as such a surprise to many people that it got nowhere at its first hearing in the council.
The bill would reduce the $340 fee for original or renewal applications to between $25 and $110, depending on the type of permit. The mayor had the bill introduced to ward off a potential lawsuit from gun owners which would hurt other gun control laws in the city.
Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria), the chairman of the Public Safety Committee, who introduced the bill for the mayor, said after the hearing, “This version of the bill is not going to happen.” But the mayor is still trying to attract support for the bill, according to a spokesman.
COUNCILMEMBER LIKES SCHOOLS MERGER: City school officials are considering merging an elementary school into I.S. 119, in Glendale, and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley (D–Glendale) whose son attends I.S. 119, likes the idea. “Many of the surrounding elementary schools have gone to the eighth grade [and] there are empty seats here that could be filled by other grades,” Crowley recently said.
Among the public schools that used to feed into I.S. 119, such as P.S. 128, P.S. 49 in Middle Village and P.S. 115 in Glendale, recently adopted the K-8 model, so students can remain in the schools through eighth grade, creating the additional space in I.S. 119. Many of the officials in these schools and parents, too, agree with the potential school switch.
MALONEY HAILS CHINESE DANCE TROUPE: Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) is singing the praises of 31 Chinese senior citizens who bring traditional Chinese music, dance and choreography to audiences around the world. They performed at John Bowne H.S. in Flushing on Monday evening, as well as in Manhattan.
Maloney said their visit here nearly didn’t happen because virtually all of them were denied visas when they first applied at the American Embassy earlier this fall. But one of the sponsors of the group reached out to Maloney for assistance and the veteran congressmember came through for it with flying colors and she is glad she was able to help them to get here.
“This week, a group of 31 seniors from China will be entrancing New York audiences with magnificent depictions of traditional Chinese culture. These performances demonstrate once again that our great city is a beacon of multiculturalism and remains the performing arts capital of the world. I was delighted to help bring the troupe to America, and I wish the performers a wonderful week here in New York,” Maloney said.