Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Clueless Chancellor

The New York Times reports today that Cathleen P. Black, the recently appointed chancellor of the New York City Schools, enjoys a 17 percent approval rating among adult residents of the City. To put that in perspective, even on the eve of Richard Nixon's resignation from his Watergate embroiled Presidency, his approval rating was considerably better than 17 percent. Even as George W. Bush presided over the second worst economic crisis of the past 100 years, a crisis that could have produced a full-fledged depression, his approval rating stayed well above 25 percent. I think if I were Chancellor of the New York City Schools, I could get a higher approval rating than Ms. Black. Now it's true that the percent of people who had never heard of me would be much higher than Black's 23, but I think I could break the 20 percent approval ceiling just by inhabiting the office. So why is she, or perhaps more exactly, why is Mayor Bloomberg's appointment of her so despised by the general public?

Unfortunately, the Times' article is not much help in answering this question. Her gaffes about recommending birth control to families where school overcrowding is occurring, of course, made things worse, and the fact that she is largely kept under wraps, making brief appearances with programmed remarks and limited questioning from the press also contribute to the sense that she remains poorly informed and largely disengaged from her chief responsibilities.

My guess, though, is that all of this has something to do with the ways in which New Yorkers' patience with Mayor Bloomberg and his outlandish belief that he can do anything he wants has become strained almost to the breaking point. His own approval rating has plummeted to 39 percent, though please note that this remains a far cry from 17. But most likely it is the combination of Bloomberg's arrogance in thinking that he could appoint anyone he wanted regardless of her qualifications and Black's own unwise decision to say yes, despite knowing absolutely nothing, really zilch, zero, breathtakingly bupkis, about public schools and their challenges.

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