Anticipated Vacancy: Chancellor of the New York City School System: Qualifications and Duties Below:

Position: The Chancellor of the New York City School System is the Chief Executive Officer of 1800 schools, over 1.1 million students; and serves at the pleasure of the Mayor; technically the Central School Board, called the Panel for Education Priorities (PEP) selects the Chancellor; however, the Mayor appoints a majority of the PEP.

Qualifications: A well regarded educator with a deep knowledge of large urban school systems, New York City experience preferable with the ability to work closely with teacher unions, elected officials, advocacy organizations and is also not perceived as part of a “failed” school system of that they helped lead.


  • To increase scores on state examinations and raise high school, graduation rates on an annual basis’ (or else)
  • To explore alternatives to state tests and state Regents examinations,
  • To have no problem with implementing mayoral initiatives (whether you agree with them or not), to be a firm and unwavering supporter of the Mayor,
  • To be perceived as totally transparent with the media and the public,
  • To be praised by the print media (NY Times, NY Post, NY Daily News) as well as think tanks (Manhattan Institute, Alliance for Quality Education) and other outlets,
  • To work with charter school networks, to be critical of charter school networks and  also not be perceived as being to closely supportive of charter schools,
  • To craft and implement an integration plan for schools with wide involvement of communities and elected officials without reducing the highly popular screened schools that are primarily responsible for segregated schools,
  • To change entrance requirements for the elite examination schools to increase the percentages of Black and Hispanic students in the schools without being accused of diminishing the quality of the schools.
  • To create and implement a program to increase test scores in schools in the lowest five percent of schools. (Note: Prior attempts in New York City and other urban cities have been unsuccessful)
  • To be willing to accept responsibility for all negative issues and be willing to offer your resignation at any time.
  • At a moments notice create a program to deal with the crisis of the day.
  • And many other yet to be determined responsibilities.

You may ask: How can a school district leader satisfy everyone? How can a school district leader be both an educational leader and also implement a political agenda? And, the answer is simple, with great difficulty.

In fact, the history of  large urban school district leaders has been, to be polite, less than exemplary.

The first mayoral control superintendent was in Boston, and is the one example of a close and effective partnership; however, in a state that has been the one glowing example of a state that has created a state education system that continually leads the nation. The so-called Massachusetts “Education Miracle” (Read “What Led to the Massachusetts Miracle” here and ‘Spreading the Massachusetts Education Miracle” here) has been well-documented and not successfully replicated anywhere else.

Los Angeles has had a revolving door of school district leaders, an elected school board with campaigns costing millions and an ever expanding number of loosely regulated charter schools. A recent Chicago school district leader is currently in prison and the teacher union and the mayor have been battling in what seems like an endless combat.

The first three New York City chancellors under mayoral control were not educators, a lawyer (Joel Klein), a business woman (Cathy Black) and a parent advocate (Dennis Walcott). The current chancellor, a Department of Education “lifer” has brought calm to a roiling system.

There are a number of former high ranking Department leaders as well as a few others waiting in the wings (See a blog speculating re the “candidates” here ).

 Chancellors have to walk a thin line, a very thin line. On one hand they are the education expert, the person entrusted with the education of over a million students, a person hopefully with both experience and a person understanding that change is always necessary; on the other hand they are part of the mayor’s cabinet and have to act within the confines of the mayor’s agenda.

The Mayor, the Chancellor and Union have an excellent relationship: Is now the time to leverage the relationship and move, together, in a different direction?  What are we not doing that we could be doing? Or, does the system only require minor tweaks?

Education (de)reformers have not only not reformed education they have substantially weakened the traditional education/progressive/democratic party/civil rights coalition.

Jennifer Berkshire does a superb job of describing how education reformers destroyed the Democratic Party – highly recommend your read here.

A few queries:

Improving outcomes for the lowest achieving students has been a challenge for decades: Is there a different approach? (Read Kirkland, et. al., Separate and Unequal)

Is the current iteration of school management, sort of a superintendent-lite setup, the most effective system to build sustainability and innovation at the school level?

Is a core unaddressed issue the consistently high teacher turnover rate?

Why are the Internationals Network, sixteen high schools that only register students who have been in the country for four years or less so successful, and, can we replicate their “secret sauce?”

Are our superintendents and principals currently highly effective leaders? And, if not, why not? And, if they are, why aren’t we seeing the results?

It is extremely difficult to change direction in huge bureaucracies; think of turning an ocean liner, mega organizations are guided by Newton’s First Law of Motion

  An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed nd in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

Mega organizations have been compared to super putty; you stick in your finger to reshape the blob only to see it slowly return to its original shape.

We have learned that “… the vocabulary about school reform … has assumed the same role as the prayer book of the Episcopal Church — by repeating the words you are supposed to be improving yourself and the world around you.”

Tyack and Cuban, in the 1995 classic “Tinkering Towards Utopia,” reviewing a century of reforms warn us that reforms that do not have the support of teachers and parents are doomed to failure.

We have a window, the first few months of a new administration, a new administration that won with 2/3 of the vote, an administration with national ambitions, an administration that needs a visionary school leader, with s ticking clock and critics who want to return to past policies or move in a “reform-y” direction.

Interested in the job?

2 responses to “Anticipated Vacancy: Chancellor of the New York City School System: Qualifications and Duties Below:

  1. All de Blasio needs to accomplish his silly NYPS goals is to stop enrolling students who cannot succeed academically. Schools cannot produce better students than they enroll. Schools are not social hospitals that can heal the damage done to students during the 50,000 hours between conception and the first day of kindergarten. Teachers cannot alter the nature of the students they are assigned. If that were not so, we would conduct medical school admissions by lottery. – Rob Bligh


  2. Its his code for “racial Inequality.” Instead of committing to the best talent available, he will push for unofficial racial quotas throughout the hierarchy of the system. A return of the good old days of Oceanhill Brownsville, and Sylvestor King in Harlem.


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