The great compromise of 2010

Media exec Black gets waiver to lead NYC schools, by Karen Matthews, Washington Post, November 29, 2010.Senseless ‘certificate': Silly hurdle for schools boss, by Chester E. Finn, Jr., New York Post, November 23, 2010.

High drama in NYC: Cathie Black got her waiver from State Commissioner David Steiner on the condition that she team up with Shael Polakow-Suransky. Wait, who? Black’s new number two is a former Gotham teacher and principal currently employed by the NYC Department of Education’s central office, as well as an alum of the Broad Superintendents Academy. Polakow-Suransky may not be a household name. But, he’s well-respected by many an education reformer (including Deborah Gist and Tom Vander Ark). Time will tell whether this shotgun marriage can yield a happy relationship and workable structure. (Having two people more or less jointly in charge often does not.) But the appointment fiasco highlights a major issue with superintendent certification regulations, in New York and elsewhere. By and large, they’re arcane, archaic, and unrelated to school effectiveness. This lock-step licensure process not only keeps terrific people out of public education who would readily lead if it wasn’t so costly—in terms of dollars, time, and hassle—to get approved, but it has no bearing on an administrator’s leadership prowess or a school system’s academic achievement. None. So well done, David Steiner, within the silly limits that state law has placed upon you. A smart (yes, diplomatic) decision—but one you shouldn’t have had to make it to begin with.