Cathleen Black blames her firing on sexism

The April 9 New York Post reports:

Black says sexism inspired criticism as schools chancellor

Fired schools boss Cathie Black whined yesterday that sexism rather than her own incompetence spurred harsh criticism during her 96 days on the job.

“If I were a guy, would I have had the pounding that I did?” Black asked in an interview with Fortune magazine posted on its Web site, a day after her buddy Mayor Bloomberg effectively canned her.

“And the worst pictures!” burbled Black, still miffed two months after an unflattering photo of her ran on the cover of New York magazine.

The former Hearst publishing boss conceded she struggled while trying to run the city’s massive education system as chancellor, a post to which Bloomberg appointed her despite her utter lack of education experience.

“It was like having to learn Russian in a weekend—and then give speeches in Russian and speak Russian in budget committees and City Council meetings,” whined Black, 66.

Those are things Black won’t have to worry about anymore, since she spectacularly crashed and burned in the job—after suffering plummeting public-opinion poll numbers, the exodus of half her deputy chancellors and criticism that she was clueless about classroom issues.

Black told Fortune she’s relieved she won’t be pursued anymore by pesky newspaper photographers now that Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott has been tapped to take her place.

She also declared “I’m a warrior,” and indicated she was tickled pink that she now gets to dress again in designer duds that might have put off working-class students and their parents when she deigned to meet them as chancellor, according to the magazine.

Black raised her left hand and said only, “Ah, c’mon!” last night outside her pricey Upper East Side pad when The Post asked if she really thought that sexism sabotaged her chance at success as chancellor.

Multiple sources said Black had been kept away from state education officials and teachers- and principals-union officials because of fears she would be out of her depth talking about public-education issues.

“She couldn’t give a speech on education because she didn’t know what she was talking about,” one source noted.

Another said: “She was a loose cannon. So [Bloomberg] was smart to keep her underground.”

Although he publicly defended her for months, Bloomberg realized Black was flailing and suffering from a “lack of vision, leadership and ideas,” a source close to the mayor said.

Another source close to the Bloomberg administration said: “It wasn’t like people personally disliked her. And it wasn’t like she was necessarily outright dumb. She was just a total mismatch.

“I don’t think she saw it as her job description to have much mastery of the issues … I don’t think she was necessarily all that interested.”

The Department of Education under Black actually delayed plans to expand citywide an ambitious special-ed pilot program and increase the number of schools containing a high-tech education program.

Even when she rolled out a program—finding $10 million to spend on after-school tutors—Black drew criticism for bragging about such a paltry expenditure.

And she badly alienated principals after demanding they surrender 50 percent of their annual budget surpluses to the department’s central office, a serious political misstep given that the money was a relatively small amount for the department’s budget.

“The mayor knew that she was a disaster,” said a source close to the administration. “People were telling him he should fire her … He saw the whole thing hemorrhaging, and he’s nervous. He’s a lot more nervous than he used to be.”

Despite having just fired her, Bloomberg raved about Black yesterday on his radio show, calling her “a phenomenally competent woman.”

A spokesman for Gov. Cuomo said only, “The governor supports the mayor’s decision.”

Here is a Post editorial on the same issue:

Let go, Cathie

Hey, Cathie—big girls don’t whine.

Alas, it took deposed Schools Chancellor Cathie Black a scant 24 hours to begin blaming her inglorious downfall on everybody save, well, herself.

* Sexists.

“If I were a guy, would I have had the pounding that I did?” she asked Fortune magazine’s Patricia Sellers yesterday.

* Photo editors.

“And the worst pictures!” she said.

* Unrealistic expectations.

“It was like having to learn Russian in a weekend—and then give speeches in Russian and speak Russian in budget committee and City Council meetings.”

Well, blurting out in a public meeting that birth control is a sound anti-crowded-classroom strategy—which Black did early on—would have offended folks no matter what the language.

Besides, “learning Russian” basically boils down to doing one’s homework—and that’s something Black appeared entirely unwilling to do.

Or unable.

Some folks figured this out early on.

And a thorough vetting process probably would have called it to Mayor Bloomberg’s attention before he made what has been arguably the most inexplicable—to say nothing of the worst—decision of his mayoralty.

Depending on how Chancellor-designate Dennis Walcott does, the best that can be hoped for going forward is that the damage is limited to the three lost months of Black’s unhappy tenure.

Bloomberg has to live with that—and, uncharacteristically but to his credit, he took full ownership of the mess.

Exit Black.

She could do herself—and New York—a huge favor right now and just dummy up.

- end of initial entry -

N. writes:

Cathleen Black blames her firing on something, anything, but her own lack of qualifications. This is to be expected when an “empty suit” is fired, doubly so when a “black empty suit” is fired, and triply so in this case.

She must be stunningly, incredibly, remarkably bad at the job Bloomberg appointed her to, for this to happen. The normal procedure would be to create a little box in the organization chart, with nothing reporting to it, and put her there. Rather like the “rubber rooms” for teachers that cannot be allowed into classrooms any more.

I’m amazed that this happened.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 11, 2011 03:12 PM | Send

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