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Deal lets media exec lead NYC schools

New York's education commissioner will grant media executive Cathleen Black a waiver to serve as chancellor of the nation's largest school system, officials say.
Image: New chancellor of New York City Public Schools Cathie Black speaks
The nominee for chancellor of New York City Public Schools, Cathleen Black, speaks while outgoing Chancellor Joel Klein, left, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg listen during a news conference Nov. 9 at City Hall in New York.Seth Wenig / AP
/ Source: NBC News and news services

An official with knowledge of the decision says New York's education commissioner will grant media executive Cathleen Black a waiver to serve as chancellor of the nation's largest school system.

The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Friday because the announcement had not yet been made.

The decision opens the door for the Hearst Magazines chairwoman to succeed Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, who is leaving to take a job with News Corp.

The city school system employs 87,000 unionized teachers and 1.1 million pupils.

Critics say that Black's lack of experience in public education and the secrecy surrounding her appointment could put her at a disadvantage.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg had faced criticism over his decision to appoint Black as chancellor because she does not have a background in education. In a letter Friday, he said Black would appoint a second-in-command with an educational background.

The official told the AP that Education Commissioner David M. Steiner, who was seeking a middle-ground to either denying or approving a waiver for Black, would grant the waiver Monday.

The brand new position would be filled by Shael Polakow-Suransky, a life-long educator who is currently the Deputy Chancellor for Performance and Accountability, according to a letter from Bloomberg to Steiner obtained by NBCNewYork.

Polakow-Suransky has worked as a middle school teacher, founder and principal of a high school as well as chief academic officer for a subset of schools.

Before chairing Hears Magazines, Black was publisher of USA Today.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday found that 51 percent of New York City voters surveyed said Black does not have the right experience to be chancellor. Just 26 percent said she does; 23 percent were undecided. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

Three former mayors earlier stepped up to defend Black. A letter from Ed Koch, David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani released said Black "certainly has an extraordinary track record of managing large organizations through trying circumstances."

Black had issued a statement thanking the former mayors and others "who have expressed their support both publicly and privately and put such faith in me."

Klein was a federal prosecutor before taking over. He had briefly taught sixth grade in the 1960s.

Civil rights lawyer Normal Siegel and Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, earlier decried Bloomberg's choice as an an abuse of power because of the mayor's secrecy ahead of announcing Black's appointment.