For the past two years plus, Mayor Michael Bloomberg fought legal battles to try to avoid releasing a series of emails written about the time that he named publisher Cathie Black as chancellor of the New York City public schools.
The mayor finally lost in court, and the emails were released.
They are surprisingly banal.
There is no bombshell, no smoking gun. Just a frenzied PR campaign to figure out how to build the appearance of public support for a person who had no qualifications for the job.
Many emails were written to and from Gayle King, Oprah’s confidante, to persuade Oprah to endorse Black as the person best qualified to lead the nation’s largest school district. Oprah agreed, and the Chicago talk show host’s praise appeared on page one of Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post.
Black suggested that they enlist Ivanka Trump’s support, but a mayoral aide wisely shot that idea down.
Then it was on to Caroline Kennedy, with the assurance that she was a member of the DOE team and could be counted on.
The PR people decided to play the gender card. They drew up a long list of prominent women who would be asked to sign a statement endorsing Black. Gloria Steinem endorsed her, though of course Steinem had no connection to the New York City schools.
At one point, a City Hall advisor makes the telling comment that Joel Klein was a male prosecutor who had no educational experience, and Cathie Black was a female publisher with no educational experience. Implication: Rank sexism. (Maybe neither should have gotten a waiver from the State Commissioner since both were clearly unqualified and neither had the experience or education credentials that the law required.)
Then there was a flurry of emails about her donations to a charter school called Harlem Village Academy and her participation with the school leader in showing “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” an anti-public education film. That burnished her connection to education.
The most amazing part of the dossier is the cluelessness of the mayor’s team about who really counts in building credibility for someone chosen to be chancellor. They focused on high society and celebrity, but it never occurred to them to find educators or parents to support her candidacy. Of course, that might have been impossible because Cathie Black probably did not know any educators or public school parents.
PS: Black lasted three months. Then Bloomberg yanked her.