Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday that an open search for New York City’s new schools chancellor would have been untenable, as some parent groups and politicians intensified their opposition to the appointment.
By late Friday afternoon, 13 of the 51 members of the City Council had signed onto a resolution calling on the state education commissioner to deny a waiver to Cathie Black, the media executive tapped this week by Mr. Bloomberg to replace Chancellor Joel Klein. A spokeswoman said Council Speaker Christine Quinn has not taken a position on the resolution.
Ms. Black, currently the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, needs a waiver because state law requires the chancellor to have education credentials and experience in schools; Ms. Black has neither, though she began serving recently on the board of a charter school and the mayor said the nation’s largest school system needs, above all characteristics, an expert manager.
“Our children’s education is too important,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams, chief sponsor of the resolution. “Just as we seriously consider the backgrounds of leaders in the NYPD, FDNY, and other city agencies, we should use the same consideration for the chancellor of NYC schools.”
With the Legislature handing control of the schools to Mr. Bloomberg in 2002, his chief power is the ability to pick the chancellor and, then, be held accountable for that selection. Denying the waiver would be viewed as a strong rebuke of Mr. Bloomberg.
On his weekly radio show, the mayor dismissed critics who are calling for the waiver to be denied. “It just goes to show they have no understanding of what the job is,” he said.
A spokesman for David Steiner, the state education commissioner—who ultimately decides on the waiver—declined Friday to say whether Mr. Bloomberg or Ms. Black have spoken with Mr. Steiner about the matter. A spokeswoman for Mr. Bloomberg did not return repeated inquiries. The commissioner has yet to receive the mayor’s formal waiver request, the spokesman said.
Mr. Bloomberg’s announcement on Tuesday that he had selected Ms. Black to succeed Mr. Klein, who will be stepping down after more than eight years, came as a surprise. The mayor did not publicly announce the opening—or advertise it—as he did when he appointed Mr. Klein in 2002. “Nobody does a search in the open like that,” he said. “You can post certain jobs and people can apply. But at a certain level, that’s not just how anybody would do it.”
The mayor said he keeps a list of potential candidates in his head for high-level jobs in his administration.
“We spent a lot of time looking around the world for the best people and we have a list of people in my mind,” he said. “Always trying to think if any of our commissioners or deputy mayors…got hit by a truck—just as a euphemism—I know pretty much who I would make my first call to to see if we could get somebody to fill in right away.”
In response to criticism from elected officials, parents and teachers, who have complained that they had no input into one of the most high-profile and influential positions in city government, the mayor said he is confident his selection process yielded the best choice.
“To go through a lengthy search process in the middle of a school years is just not something that is in our kids’ interest,” he said. “We got to keep going here.”