The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) is treading lightly in the debate over Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s appointment of Cathie Black as Schools Chancellor. While rank-and-file teachers are outraged at the move because of Black’s lack of qualifications and Bloomberg’s secretive process, the union has had a relatively low profile. Quite a contrast with educator Justin Wedes’ petition effort, which has accumulated more than 10,000 signatures and asks New York State Education Commissioner David Steiner to veto Bloomberg’s waiver request for Black.
The following UFT memo maps out a path for the selection of Schools Chancellor in the future, but does not call for a more democratic process. The choice would still be made by an appointment, although the UFT process would require the appointee to present themselves publicly. However, in a city with so few directly elected officials, calling for and eventually creating a fully democratic procedure for selection would be a refreshing change.
Here is the text of the UFT resolution:
WHEREAS in order to lead New York City public schools and ensure that all students receive the quality education to which they are entitled, a chancellor should have a full and thorough understanding of teaching and learning, a solid grasp of education issues and concerns and practical experience as an educator to appreciate the impact of policy choices and administrative directives on the real world of schools and classrooms; and
WHEREAS in recognition of the value of educational knowledge and experience to the office, New York State education law requires that a chancellor possess (a) certification in educational leadership; (b) a Masters’ Degree; and (c) a minimum of three years of teaching experience; and
WHEREAS New York State education law further permits the State Education Commissioner to provide a waiver for a non-educator to be chancellor if that individual possesses other “exceptional qualifications;” and
WHEREAS the process by which a non-educator is granted a waiver to become chancellor must be deliberate, thorough and credible if that individual’s tenure in that office is to be considered legitimate by educators, parents, local communities and the general public; and
WHEREAS by conducting his selection process for the chancellor in secret, and withholding from the public the most basic information on that process, Mayor Bloomberg has thwarted the intent of mayoral control of New York City schools, and created a controversy which ill serves New York City public schools;
WHEREAS in response to the nomination of a non-educator for the office of chancellor, New York State Education Commission David Steiner has announced the formation of an independent panel, including educators, to evaluate the request for a waiver and make a non-binding recommendation to him; therefore be it
RESOLVED that the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) support the process established by State Education Commissioner David Steiner as a credible and fair procedure for deciding on the request for a waiver from the qualifications for chancellor of New York City public schools promulgated in state education law; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the United Federation of Teachers support legislation to reform the process for the selection of the Chancellor, making it open and transparent, with the following features: (a) a nationwide search to attract the most qualified candidates, (b) a full and systematic vetting of the short list of the final candidates; and (c) a public process of engagement for the final candidates.