NEW YORK—Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, appointed Schools chancellor on Thursday, did not meet with the uproar his predecessor, Cathie Black, did when she was appointed in November—nor has he been welcomed with open arms.
While Walcott has the background in education that Black lacked, his credentials are not totally impeccable. He does not hold a superintendent’s license, meaning he will need a waiver to officially take the post. He expects to have a waiver in hand before the week is out. Critics also point out that Walcott may have spent two years as a teacher, but that was decades ago.
While the two chancellors vary greatly in their credentials, their platforms are nearly identical—following the plan already put in place by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Those who vehemently opposed Black throughout her tenure got their way when she resigned last Thursday. But they were not fully appeased, as they were left out of the process of choosing her successor.
“[Schools chancellor] is a position of moral authority. In order to have the confidence of the public, there should be a process,” said Greg Kelly of "Good Morning New York" on Fox 5, reading out a statement by former Schools Chancellor Frank Macchiarola, who served in the position from 1978 to 1983.
Walcott was Kelly’s guest Monday morning. Walcott disagreed that a process including input from the Board of Education and other community members would have been better.
“I used to be one of those board members that used to go through that process. … It was ugly,” responded Walcott, recalling Ramon Cortines, who served as Schools chancellor from 1993 to 1995.
Walcott says Cortines was elected through a process and sometimes he worked out, sometimes he didn’t.
A Lesson From History: Mayoral Control
Cortines had great support from the Board of Education and was generally popular among parents and educators. Those were the days before Mayor Bloomberg exercised mayoral control over the city’s schools. Back then, the Board of Education was charged with finding a chancellor.
Former Chancellor Cortines and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani were known for butting heads.
The chancellor’s tenure was fraught with conflict over the education budget, with Giuliani grabbing for a chunk of the $8 billion allotted to what the mayor saw as an overly bureaucratic and wasteful system.
The conflict finally came to a head when Giuliani pushed to take greater control of the schools system. The issue was a schools security force. Giuliani wanted it under the control of the NYPD. Cortines did not. Giuliani appointed a five-member investigative panel composed of his allies and ordered public hearings on school security, according to a Daily News article from that time. Cortines got fed up and resigned.
When Bloomberg took office after Giuliani, he took the next step and reinstituted mayoral control over city schools, which had been relinquished in 1969. Now the debate over control continues.
“We gave him mayoral control, but we didn’t make him a dictator,” says Kelly of Bloomberg.
Walcott joined host Mark Reilly on WWRL’s "Morning Show" on Monday after his interview with Kelly on Fox 5. Reilly commented that mayoral control “has a great deal of latitude, a lot more latitude than a lot of people thought.”
Walcott confirmed in his interviews that there is no gap between his policies and the mayor’s when it comes to education.
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