Area pols reacted swiftly today to the abrupt replacement of the disastrously unpopular Schools Chancellor Cathie Black, with Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who led the fight for her ouster, offering an olive branch and Councilwoman Letitia James taking a less conciliatory stance.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the appointment of Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development Dennis M. Walcott to replace Black in a news conference this morning.
He said the decision for Black to step down was “mutual,” adding that he takes “full responsibility for the fact that this has not worked out as either of us had hoped and expected.”
Black was a high-level magazine executive when Bloomberg tapped her to take over for her predecessor, Joel Klein.
With no experience in education, and as someone who sent her own children to private school, Black was an unpopular choice.
A NY1-Marist poll this week held her approval rating at 17 percent.
Wolcott, a lifelong Queens resident who graduated from the city’s public school system and sent his children there, is likely to be a more popular choice.
“I’ve taught kindergarten, I’ve served on the old Board of Education, I’ve visited probably hundreds and hundreds of our schools, walked their corridors, held the hands of the children, and talked to the moms and dads,” he said during the news conference
Prospect Heights’ assemblyman, Hakeem Jeffries, the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit to oust the chancellor, held out an olive branch, praising mayor for taking a “significant step in the right direction.”
"The resignation of Cathie Black represents and extraordinary public acknowledgement by City Hall that her appointment did not serve the best interest of our public school children,” he said in a statement released this afternoon.
“This administration has had several public policy successes but has often been reluctant to admit failures. … The departure of Cathie Black creates an opportunity for the DOE to move in a different direction,” he added.
Councilwoman Letitia James was less forgiving, calling the move to hire Black in the first place one of many “senseless” decisions.
“The city has been plagued with incompetent administrators,” she wrote in a press release. "The Blizzard of 2011, CityTime, the Atlantic Yards project, and now this; many would consider this the third term curse.”
James suggested that due to the turmoil, the DOE should halt all charter school co-locations and school closures and postpone hearings on DOE budget cuts.
The city is currently trying to .
Meanwhile, State Sen. Eric Adams commended Black for stepping down, and called it "a major victory."
He praised Walcott's appointment, saying his extensive experience in education give him "a comprehensive view of the problems in the NYC public school system and will enable him to transform our schools."
In another surprising event, the New York State Education Department confirmed this afternoon that New York State Commissioner David Steiner is stepping down as well.
Patch editors Lori Gross and Matthew Hampton contributed to this report.