Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ten Totally Snark-Free (Really) Questions for Cathie Black

I was chatting with Mr. Eyre this evening about the new schools chancellor, Ms. Cathie Black, and the news conference in which she was warmly welcomed yesterday. Being the big-hearted person that I am, I stated that I would be withholding judgment on Ms. Black for the time being. Yes, she has no experience as an educator, but Lincoln didn't have any experience as a President either, and that turned out all right. Sure, I would have preferred someone with some meaty education experience. But I'll probably have plenty of time to grow to dislike her later if she turns out to be more of the same, so for right now, I'm going to listen.

And ask some totally snark-free (I MEAN IT) questions.

Here's what I'd ask Cathie Black if I could:

1.) Coming from a competitive industry like publishing, you surely understand the value of equipping your employees with the best and most complete tools to get the job done. How will you improve the business practices of NYCDOE around contracting for technology and supplies to ensure that no teacher has to buy her own supplies for the job, from chalk to iPads?

2.) As the first female leader of the NYC schools, you might better understand the problems faced by working parents, both among your employees and the parents of your students. How will you make the DOE more responsive to parents, and expand the family-friendliness of the teaching profession for your employees? (Hint: PAID PARENTAL LEAVE)

3.) In these tough economic times, will you be able to say no to sweetheart contracts and cut loose or greatly reduce expensive boondoggles like ARIS?

4.) Since this is your first time working directly with a public union, what is your opinion of unions in general and the teachers' union in particular? Are you prejudiced from the outset, as Klein made himself out to be, or are you willing to listen to and consider the union's concerns?

5.) What will you do to enrich the diversity of the city's most elite public high schools, which are still dominated by white and Asian students?

6.) Do you believe in the idea of "neighborhood schools"; that is, if parents wish their children to stay close to home, that they should have quality educational options within walking or a short bus ride's distance?

7.) What will you do to ensure the continuity of after-school programs, sports, and arts offerings as budget cuts go even deeper?

8.) What is your position on the Common Core movement?

9.) What will you do to help schools and teachers prepare students for all kinds of success after high school--college, quality careers, the military, and family life?

10.) Finally, although a great deal of lip service has been paid to the professionalism of teachers, it seems that no one trusts us to make very many important decisions. Access to databases, supplies, curricular materials, etc. are often limited to the point of being unnavigable for the average teacher. What will you do to empower teachers to get their jobs done swiftly and powerfully, with a minimum of hassle on all fronts?

If Ms. Black was answering these questions, I would at this point thank her graciously for her time. Really.

Your thoughts? Feel free to add them, or your own questions, in the comments.
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