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New York City’s Next Schools Chancellor

December 2, 2013 pm31 4:04 pm

There’s been much discussion of who the next chancellor should be. I’m not going to name names. I don’t know that anyone would listen to me. And I don’t know that I really know enough. 

Instead, I think I can describe things that would be good, and things that would be problems. And where someone who wanted to look for a candidate might find one.

  • Experienced educator. Some real time as a teacher. I’d like ten years, might settle for five without complaint, but five is pushing it. Would be nice if the person had some time with extra responsibility before becoming a principal, but that’s not necessary. Like being an AP, or playing some extra role(s) while still a teacher. Needs to have been a successful principal. I’d like ten years, might settle for five, but that’d be kind of weak. Might have gone on from there in any number of directions…
  • Experienced public school educator. And “privately-managed public school” is not a public school. 
  • New Yorker. An out of towner is certainly not a huge problem, and there are plenty of icky New Yorkers, but all else being equal, a New Yorker is better.
  • TfAer? Absolutely not. Absolutely unqualified on the basis of career path alone. Let them run their anti-education think tanks, their testing companies. (quick nod to the TfAers who have turned on TfA. Like this good one. Or that brave one. Good people, not for Chancellor.)
  • No active “reformers.” The landscape is littered with anti-public education reformers, jumping from job to job, seeking new cities and communities to victimize. We don’t need one here.
  • No one who has personally done grave damage to NYC’s schools.

An experienced educator, taught ten years, principal ten, might have gone on to bigger and better. Worked/works in NYC. Not TfA. Not an anti-public education reformer. 

Where should we look?  

  • Current, long-serving, sitting principals?  Would a principal who had never served higher in the bureaucracy be able to handle such a huge system?  Probably not, but, with a strong team…
  • Someone at the top of the current bureaucracy?  The higher we look, the more likely they’ve played the role of an active anti-public education reformer. Plus, at the top today, few have sufficient experience as educators. Suransky and those who have worked closely with him should not be considered. House needs to be cleaned.
  • Someone who rose in the bureaucracy, but not all the way up?  That gets interesting. How many real educators, with real experience, are there, mid-level. And how many are good people, and good educators?  And how many are high enough up to have a handle on running a big system?  Some. I think there are some there, and I think it is a good place to look.   Just recently 7% of NYC principals signed a poorly considered letter in support of keeping the network structure in place (the networks need to go, the principals were wrong). Leave the letter aside, these principals were writing in support of network leaders who actually support their schools in ways that the schools appreciate. These network leaders, I’m sure there are others, may be a very good place to look.
  • Someone who rose in NYC, but left for other educational pursuits?  Depends on who, but this might also be a fruitful place to look. One of the names being bandied about is Kathleen Cashin, fits this profile (some people are fans – I’m not wild about her curricular choices – but I’m not naming names, so, enough). Betty Rosa does as well. And I’m sure there are more. 
  • Someone from outside NYC? Besides the obvious (I just indicated that this is a deficiency), where in the country are there people in education who are looking for jobs, not anti-public education reformers, not TfA? It is possible, but perhaps unlikely. 

I’m not picking a name. But I’ll judge the choice against these criteria, as soon as De Blasio becomes mayor and makes it.


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