A Chancellor with a Velvet Glove, or, a Chancellor Who Includes Teachers and Parents in a Meaningful Fashion? Can the Manager Educate? Can the Educator Manage?


In the nineties a newly selected chancellor was whisked out to a district in Brooklyn with the largest increase in reading scores, a wonderful photo op.  Some of the cognoscenti snickered, the previous chancellor had removed the five lowest achieving schools and placed them in the Chancellor’s District.  Addition by subtraction.
The Mayor and Ms. Black tripped up to the Bronx for the obligatory on the ground school visit. Someone at Tweed chose PS 109 in District 9, an “A” school, and, as InsideSchools.org reports, a school that houses the District 9 Gifted and Talented program,
The school runs the District 9 gifted and talented (G&T) program, which admits students through a citywide test.
Half the students (in 2009) participated in an after school program that runs to 6 PM, funded by special grants. 96% of the parents, double the city average, participated in the Environmental Survey.
PS 109 is an excellent school, however, without the Gifted & Talented students and the extra funding the Progress Report grade would have been significantly lower.
The fifteen hundred or so schools are clearly divided among “have” and “have not” schools, by funding, by placement of special programs, and, of course, by geography.
Christopher Columbus High School, on the Department “hit list,” has 24% Special Education and 17% ELL youngsters while a small high school in the same building has 13% Special Education and 3% ELL.  Typical of the disparities that the Department fosters.
As Anna Phillips points out in a WNYC interview a number of small Klein-created schools are beginning to appear on the “to be closed” list and it is clear that the smaller schools are advantaged as to the abilities of the student bodies.
… several reports have shown that many of these schools aren’t admitting as many high-needs kids as the schools they replaced. So they’ll post a grad rate that’s well above the city average of 60 percent in four years, but they won’t enroll as many students who need help learning English.
The many opposing the appointment of Ms. Black aver  that an educator, someone with deep understanding of educational issues confronting children and teachers, would move the school system in a different direction.
An educator would “even the playing field” rather than fostering “new” schools and disadvantaging “established” schools.
An educator would emphasize and support classroom teachers, not “management initiatives” that resonate everywhere except in classrooms.
Eli Broad, in a Huffington Post essay  supports the non-educator superintendent,
So how is it that leaders without backgrounds in education have been able to guide public school districts to raise student achievement? 
Mr. Broad is mistaken. He conveniently forgets that Admiral Brewer, the retired Navy admiral was a disaster as superintendent in Los Angeles, and,  Arne Duncan’s years in Chicago were a failure.
Rather than training non-educators to be superintendents Mr. Broad should have spent his millions to train educators to be more effective managers.
The most effective large city superintendents, Beverly Hall in Atlanta, Barbara Byrd Bennett in Cleveland (and now Detroit), Tom Payzant in Boston are educators with decade upon decade of service, who worked their way up the rungs of the ladder.
Pedro Noguera, in a NY Daily News op ed  urges the new chancellor to concentrate on core issues,
 The next chancellor will need to chart a new direction, building upon what has worked and discarding what has not.
The mayor and new chancellor must understand that they’re expected to do more than judge and close schools; the public expects that they find ways to help schools improve.
The antipathy toward Ms. Black, among teachers and parents and the larger school community is enormous. A psychologist would call it transference (“unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another”), transferring the antipathy from the mayor and Mr. Klein to Ms. Black. 
Chancellor Black can listen, nod approvingly, visit schools, speak with a range of “experts,” build a staff, ultimately the proof will be in her actions. Her “velvet glove” attitude (an idiom used to describe a person who appears gentle, but is determined and inflexible underneath. (‘Iron fist in a velvet glove’ is the full form.)) will become stale if the deprecations of her predecessor aren’t corrected.
Let me raise two issues in recent studies that Joel Klein would simply ignore, first, students whose homes are in foreclosure,
Schools with relatively high concentrations (> 5 percent) of students living in homes that received foreclosure notices tend to have larger shares of black students and students eligible for free lunch. The authors suggest that the performance of these already disadvantaged schools may decline further as a large share of their students face residential upheavals and turnover increases.

The report’s authors conclude that as the number of foreclosure actions continues to grow, the number of affected students will also continue to climb. The hard-hit schools in Brooklyn and Queens that have large concentrations of foreclosure-affected students tend to be vulnerable to begin with, enrolling disproportionate numbers of black and poor students and students with below average test scores.

An educator-chancellor might create an inter-department team to work with children and families in targeted high foreclosure schools.

The  Schott Foundation Black Boys Report, tells us,

The report highlights concerns that New York’s graduation rate for its Regents diploma is only 25 percent for Black male students.  New York City, the district with the nation’s highest enrollment of Black students, only graduates 28 percent of its Black male students with Regents diplomas on time. Overall, each year over 100,000 Black male students in New York City alone do not graduate from high school with their entering cohort.

An educator-chancellor might create a Task Force, what specific strategies are needed to address the “black boy” disgrace?  Are we recruiting sufficient numbers of Afro-American male teachers?  Mentors?

Will Chancellor Black acknowledge and address these issues and, in a collaborative manner, or, as the former school leader, keep your head embedded in the data dungeon?



2 responses to “A Chancellor with a Velvet Glove, or, a Chancellor Who Includes Teachers and Parents in a Meaningful Fashion? Can the Manager Educate? Can the Educator Manage?

  1. Wanda Wingfield

    The appointment of Ms. Black is more evidence of the disrespect the general public and some politicians have for the profession of education. Would a non-doctor be appointed to head the American Medical Association? Would a non-lawyer be chosen to head the Bar Association? Why then, in education,
    do people feel that “management skills” are enough of a qualification to run one of the largest school systems in the country? I am certain that there are a significant number of qualified educator-candidates to fill this important position.


  2. I am optimistic that Shael Buransky will be making the important education decisions. The overemphasis on using student test scores in evaluating teachers came about because teachers received too few personal evaluations and most were satisfactory every single year. Why was that? The union grieving every evaluation less than satisfactory surely had something to do with it.


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