Point of View: Position Papers

Public Letter to Richard Mills, NY Commissioner of Education, on Mayor’s New Choice for Schools Chancellor
July 30, 2002

Richard Mills
Commissioner of Education
New York State Education Department
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, New York 12234

Dear Commissioner Mills:

As you are aware, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has chosen Joel I. Klein for the position of Chancellor of the New York City public school system. It appears that Mr. Klein does not have the requisite educational training to assume this post without a waiver from you. Hence, Mr. Klein is presently unqualified for the position and is being offered the position notwithstanding the availability of qualified candidates, including minority educators, and other educators with managerial experience that would obviate the necessity of the granting of a waiver from the State Education Department.

We write to urge you to take your time in considering the application for a waiver for Mr. Klein -and also to request of you a careful, deliberative process for the review of the waiver application. In this connection, you should not only appoint a panel to review the application, but the panel must be wholly independent of political factions or influence. Moreover, the panel should be advised not to act in haste, as did your prior panel that ?considered? and granted the waiver to Harold Levy. The best interests of New York City?s nearly one million public school students is at stake and we cannot afford another mistake. Indeed, in my considered judgment, it would be foolhardy to place into this important position a person of either insufficient or no equivalent educational background to the training that is the standard for evaluating the fitness of a person to superintend a school district of this size and complexity.

It would not be in the best interests of either the children or the New York City public school system for you to allow the appointment of a questionably qualified and under whelming candidate to the substantial position of New York City Schools Chancellor. Indeed, the educational specifications for Schools Chancellor are exacting for good reason?to avoid cronyism, and to ensure in the first instance that the superintendent of schools is not so limited in his personal awareness and professional training as to be the lesser of the persons he is to supervise, evaluate, and lead in the field of education; otherwise, the novice in educational pedagogy and educational administration could very easily become the captive of those who lord over him their superior educational credentials and discipline.

There ought be no weight whatsoever given to the preference of the appointing authority (Mayor Bloomberg) simply because the appointing authority likes the candidate or the candidate is a political or other crony of the appointing authority. Because of the enormity of the job, and the emphasis placed on the success of public education for the life chances of our children, the New York City Schools Chancellor must be unquestionably qualified. The selection of Mr. Klein appears devoid of merit and contemptuous of the educational qualifications expected of school superintendents. This is not the way to go at a time the state is setting for students higher standards; we must be certain that the head of the system is a person who not only has the minimal qualifications and educational training to assume the post but far exceeds them. We must tap excellence, not experiment any further with mediocrity. The notion that Mr. Klein has ?adaptive? experience or equivalent managerial experience that qualifies him to run this state?s biggest and most diverse school district is sheer rhetoric, indeed it is educational doubletalk.

We would like to submit to you and your panel a memorandum on this matter, as well as speak directly with you if the procedure allows for oral presentations.

Thank you very much for your immediate attention and consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Michael Meyers Executive Director