Mayor Fires Black After 97 ‘Unsatisfactory’ Days
By HENRY STERN
We were surprised today to learn that Mayor Bloomberg dismissed his hand-picked Schools Chancellor, Cathie Black, after 97 infelicitous days as chief of New York City’s school system.
Ms. Black was never able to counter the wave of negative judgments that followed her appointment by Mayor Bloomberg on Nov. 9, 2010, a scant hour after the departure of Joel I. Klein, who had set a record for length of service. Klein was chancellor for more than eight years, Bloomberg having appointed him on July 29, 2002. Ms. Black also set a record, for brevity of service.
In general, Mayor Bloomberg has been praised for the quality of his appointments to high city positions. He has a Committee on Appointments, led by the highly respected former Deputy Mayor (under Koch), Nat Leventhal. The Black selection was out of character and did not follow the normal pattern of vetting potential candidates. It is suspected that the mayor was more than willing to dispense with the services of Chancellor Klein, whose luster had been dimmed by Federal statistics indicating that the academic achievement of New York City students was not as great as Mr. Klein had led New Yorkers, including perhaps the mayor, to believe.
The beleaguered mayor deserves some credit for firing Ms. Black before she became a further embarrassment. He showed that he could dismiss his own appointees, even if that leads to the conclusion that he made an error in hiring them in the first place. It should also be pointed out that although this is the tenth year of his mayoralty, it is the first time that such an inappropriate appointment was made, and he corrected it on his own.
We were highly skeptical of the Black appointment from the start, and wrote about it twice. On Nov. 10, we wrote, under the headline “Klein Out, Black In. Does She Know How To Teach The 3R’s?” we wrote:
“One would imagine that if one were seeking to fill the most important school superintendency in the United States, some person could be found who was both a brilliant manager and had some experience in public or private education. The appointment was not required to have been announced within minutes of the news of Joel Klein’s resignation to enter the field of publishing.”
Two days later, under the headline, “Unweighted By Experience, Cathie Black Seeks Waiver. Will Mayor’s Wish Previal?” we wrote:
“No truly independent screening panel of educators is likely to conclude that no experience whatsoever in their professional field is adequate preparation for the most difficult and complex job in local public education. If they felt that way, they would be expressing the view that their own professional qualifications had little value, and that any corporate executive could fill the positions they now hold...
“It could be said that the chancellor, a person whose importance is comparable to that of the police commissioner, should be a person of impeccable and undisputed credentials, a Horace Mann of the 21st century, if such a person could be found and persuaded to take the job. To select a chancellor with no background whatsoever in education is certainly a daring leap of faith.”
The leap of faith has not led to a happy landing, and the plug has pitilessly been pulled on the publisher. President Kennedy and thousands of others have said that public service is the highest calling, if it is done wisely and well. If it is not, one finds another person to serve. The republic will endure. So will Ms. Black.
The task now falls on Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott. We have known him for many years, and we like and respect him. This will be the most challenging task he could possibly attempt. We hope he succeeds.
One piece of advice for Mr. Walcott: Call Diane Ravitch and Sol Stern. You don’t have to do everything they say, but you should listen to them carefully. They can tell you a lot about the system. They are not bound by the mistakes of the past, and neither should you be. There are over a million children out there for whom you should be a great hope. Do everything you can not to let them down.
Immigrant New Yorkers at Risk – A Call to Action
By Scott M. Stringer, Manhattan Borough President
It’s an immigrant nightmare that’s become a daily reality at Rikers Island: People who are here legally and have no criminal record are suddenly transferred into federal custody for deportation. Their due process rights are violated and they’re sent to detention centers in far away states, where they’re subject to inhumane conditions. Finally they are sent back to their country of origin, devastating their families in New York and sending waves of anxiety through the entire immigrant community.
Today this is a sad fact of life at Rikers Island. But the worst part of the nightmare is that it doesn’t have to be happening. New York City has been turning people—including many innocent and lawfully present people—over to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency as part of a strictly voluntary collaboration. The controversial Criminal Alien program, as it is known, could be ended tomorrow, and that’s exactly what we’re calling on Mayor Bloomberg to do. New York has no obligation to hand people over at Rikers Island, in clear violation of their rights, and it’s time for our voices to be heard on this outrage.
Under the program, some 3,200 New Yorkers have been funneled into ICE custody each year, then detained and deported. Nearly 50 percent of these deportees had no prior conviction at the time of their arrest. While the federal government has launched controversial and aggressive efforts to deport immigrants, New York City has no business embracing a misguided and overly broad program that destroys the lives of thousands of law-abiding people. Immigrant communities have been caught up in a vicious cycle of politics, punishment and deportation, and the horror stories are heartbreaking: New York detainees are being detained as far away as Texas and Lousiana, isolated from family and support. These centers have inadequate medical care, and those held in detention are subject to physical and mental abuse. Some 107 people died in immigration detention centers from 2003 to 2010, according to an article in The New York Times.
It’s bad enough that the human rights of these detainees have been violated. But the program is also costing New York tens of millions of dollars that could be better spent at a time of fiscal crisis. Under the Criminal Alien Program, the City must house prisoners at Rikers much longer than it normally would, because New York policy forbids anyone who might be sent into deportation proceedings from being released on bail.
The costs mount—and so does the toll on law enforcement. The City’s program deters many in the immigrant community from coming forward and reporting crimes, knowing what the consequences of an arrest can be. As a result, the bonds of trust so necessary to police and the communities they serve are weakened. In addition, databases used by the federal government to identify people for detention have been significantly flawed for years and their process is often too rushed to ensure accurate identification.
How can we expect to instill faith in fairness and justice with all communities when the government is so willing to ignore rights and use questionable data to deport people?
The Rikers Island crackdown is similar to Secure Communities, a federal program that has enlisted states in the drive to deport immigrants in custody regardless of their offense. But the crucial distinction is that in New York City there is no mandatory requirement that the Department of Corrections take such action. New York’s activities come amid a heightened national campaign to boost the number of people who are deported every year. Last December, published reports of internal emails from the Department of Homeland Security showed how ICE has been frantically competing with itself to boost numbers, regardless of human consequences.
For all these reasons, the City’s partnership with ICE must end now. New York was built and shaped by immigrants, and we are a greater city as a result of people who come here for a better life from somewhere else, often at much risk to themselves. It’s the last place you would expect to find a program that so undermines immigrant rights and dignity. Indeed, various cities around the country, such as Arlington, VA and Santa Clara, CA have chosen to end this harmful practice.
Please join our campaign to end this program in New York City once and for all. Please call my office at (212) 669-8300 to pledge your support.