Mamie Till Mobley

"There was an important mission for me, to shape so many...young minds as a teacher. God took away one child but...(gave) me thousands. And I have been grateful for the blessing." Mamie Till Mobley

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Spotlight on State Commissioner of Education, David M. Steiner

Photo Credit: NYTimes
The spotlight dimmed away from Cathie Black the controversy surrounding her fitness or unfitness to hold on to her hasty appointment as the 2nd NYC Schools Chancellor under mayoral control. The conversation now has turned to Commissioner of Education, Dr. David M. Steiner appointed last year to replace Mills.
Four on the eight member panel  recommended to  Commissioner Steiner Tuesday he should not waive the State educational standards for  the nearly septuagenarian Cathie Black. 
Mayor Micheal Bloomberg appointed her chancellor earlier this month amid a vociferous uproar and protests from diverse sectors of the NYC community, including an on-line petition with nearly 15,000 signatures.
A NYTimes article  appeared on Wednesday  with the headline "...Agonizes over Challenge to Mayor." It showed a photograph of the Commissioner looking out from his apartment window in NYC as though pondering how to decide on the fate of Cathie Black.
The decision on Tuesday provided him the excuse he needed to back off from rubber stamping the appointment for Mayor Bloomberg. 
Yet, Commissioner Steiner has to reconcile some past issues in his professional life such as when he applied for the job of former Commissioner Mills who retired two years ago.  Interestingly,  NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein appeared as a top reference on his Curriculum Vitae (resume).  And his supporters included charter schools proponents writing a letter of recommendation people from Teach for America, Democrats for Education Reform and others. And he had a few skeptics who wrote comments about his appointment to replace Mills such as:

"the fact that Dr. Steiner’s top recommendation on his CV came from Joel Klein does not fill me with hope that he will hold DOE accountable for its pervasive financial mismanagement, fraud, and skewed statistics." Another comment of Steiner, "I’m skeptical of this person. He’s says that any test. such as the teacher certification test, where there is a 90% pass rate, is too easy. Well, suburban school districts in New York have for years had 90% or better passing rates on the ELA and Math tests and no one thought they were too easy then when places like Scarsdale, Bridgehampton, and Briarcliff returned those kinds of results. BUT, as soon as some urban school districts like NYC get close to matching the 90% State pass rate, then the tests are suspect, “too easy,” and need to be reviewed. The explanation I offer for this sudden shift is simply racism."

Still others criticized his appointment because he  didn't rise from the ranks of the education bureaucracy instead  from a few colleges of education that had employed him.
Nevertheless, New York State Education Law empowers him to grant or not to grant a waiver for  Cathie Black or to appease a powerful billionaire mayor who has not been taking his controversial appointment sitting down. 
Steiner suggested he would grant the waiver if the Mayor resubmitted  her appointment with a compromise option. The Mayor had to appoint a 2nd person with the qualifications in education to help Mrs. Black run the school system. But experts in education law advised him in the media this option illegal requiring the State Legislature  to change its statutes. 
This is an opportune time for Commissioner Steiner to  prove his former opponents and  skeptics wrong that his appointment to replace Mills the right one for the children and people of New York State.
Cathie Black should bow out from her hasty appointment as NYC Schools Chancellor before the debate deflects from whether she has the professional qualifications in education for Steiner to grant her a waiver to one about her nearly 20 year tenure on the board of directors of the Coca Cola Company. It   has a troubling record of human rights abuses around the globe, involving young children.  Her silence is enough to disqualify her from working in any position with young children. For this reason an organization named Killer Coke has joined the chorus of those opposing Mrs. Black's appointment. 

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Whitney Tilson (3rd background)

Whitney Tilson (3rd background)
"Let’s be honest: we need a lot more well-off, well-educated white folks with a personal stake in both charter schools and education reform in general if we’re going to take reform to the next level, both politically and operationally.Whitney Tilson, hedge fund manager and major funding angel for the school privatizing Democrats for Education Reform, thinks there’s not enough rich, educated white folks.( Preaprez) click photo to his blog.

Arne Duncan

Arne Duncan
U.S. Secretary of Education, click photo