I was once an administrator in a private school in which teachers did not have to be certified. Some of them were great natural teachers nonetheless; others were not. The “nots,” however, sometimes brought other things to the school like coaching skills or academic degrees or tech expertise. When it became clear that these folks were unprepared for the job they had been hired to do (teach), the headmaster often tried to find ways to keep them on the payroll and hire or reassign someone else to actually do the job. Sometimes he could make it work, but only if the first hire didn’t interfere with the other person actually doing the job.
As the academic dean, it made me crazy.
I thought about that situation the other day with New York Education Commissioner David Steiner’s
“compromise” that allowed him to wimp out and let Cathleen Black be hired as head of New York City schools. The mayor will just appoint a Number Two guy who actually knows something about education -- Shael Polakow-Suransky, currently New York schools' chief accountability officer. I don’t think I’d want to be that guy.
There are so many disturbing things about the Black appointment. I mean, seriously, there was no one, no one with some experience in education who could have been considered? What’s the message to educators there? You’re OK in the trenches (maybe), but let’s leave the running of the business to the big boys and girls? And don’t forget, education is first and foremost a business.
And by the way, I was a charter member of the New York State Association of Women in Administration, the main organization that promotes the hiring of women and minorities as school administrators. So don’t tell me that the problem with Black is that she’s a woman. The problem with Black is that she knows nothing about education. And if a woman superintendent fails, we don’t want to hear that it was because she’s a woman.
When military officers left the military and were hired as school superintendents, some of us used to joke about whether the military would put a retired school superintendent in charge of a battalion. Not likely. We’re talking about our nation’s security and future here. Not like in education.