Changing of the Chancellor

November 9, 2010 2:04:45 PM PST
A huge change for the largest school system in the country.

New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein is stepping down, 8 years on the job. Named to replace Klein: Cathie Black, the long-time President and now Chair of Hearst Publications. She oversees - or I suppose "oversaw" is a more appropriate term now - 14 magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, O, The Oprah Magazine, Popular Mechanics, Redbook, and Town & Country.

So for the second time, Mayor Bloomberg has appointed a non-educator to the biggest local education job in the country.

Klein was an anti-trust attorney in the Justice Dept. And now Ms. Black, coming from the private sector, to run a system with 1.1 million students.

The truth about Klein and what he and Mayor Bloomberg did for the schools: They are not in as good a shape as Mr. Klein and the Mayor would like us to believe. There are still more problems that seem intractable. But the other truth is that Klein helped usher in a better structure than existed before. The school system is more centralized than before - and improved. And it's more accountable, and improved. The Mayor fought for the abolition of the Board of Education and to have control rest in his office. Social promotion was ended - the practice of letting failing kids move to the next grade level anyway. And the City began "grading" schools, and offering incentives to teachers and principals to get improved grades and schools.

What seems a bit off at least at first blush is where Mr. Klein is going: To News Corp., the media giant run by Rupert Murdoch, which includes Fox News and the New York Post. Its reputation is staunchly conservative, not exactly Mr. Klein's political reputation. So what's he going to do there, as executive vice president and a member of the board? Try to get News Corp. books into the schools? Get Fox News channeled into classrooms? It will be interesting to hear Mr. Klein's take on what's ahead, other than his perfunctory announcement at City Hall today.

We'll have the latest on the Klein resignation, and Ms. Black's ascension, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, was it a missile, and if it was, who fired it? And for what purpose? And if it wasn't a missile, then what was it?

It's a little disconcerting that nearly 24 hours after a streaking contrail was splattered against the sunset sky in Southern California, no one seems to know the answers to those two questions.

Was it a secret military project? If it were, both the Navy and the Air Force claim they did not launch a missile. Of course if it was indeed top secret, they wouldn't acknowledge it. But if it were that hush hush, then why launch it over the second largest metropolitan area in the country? Why launch it at sea, just 35 miles or so off the coast?

Was it an attempt to shoot down an airplane? The military today insisted that "there is no threat to our nation, and from all indications this was not a launch by a foreign military."

This afternoon, the FAA says it ran radar replays of a large area west of Los Angeles, where the possible missile was "sighted." Radar replays, the FAA says, did NOT reveal any fast-moving, unidentified targets in that area. And, the agency says, there were no reports of unusual sightings from pilots in the area Monday afternoon.

Curious. Or maybe not. Experts say the FAA radar is not designed to pick up the image of a missile - only images of airplanes.

Now the latest explainer is that this is some type of weather-related occurrence.

The mystery remains a mystery, and we'll have the latest, tonight at 11.

We're also taking a look at how to improve your travel life during these recessionary times. Back when I flew regularly - and by regularly I mean several times a week - getting upgrades for myself and my colleagues (producer, camera crew) was a daily challenge. I had a healthy stash of key chains and lapel pins at the ready for friendly ticket counter agents. Back then, upgrades were plentiful. And getting them became something of a contest. Win, and life was better.

These days upgrades are far more scarce - both on airplanes and at hotels. But there are still ways to get them. Our business reporter Lisa Colagrossi tonight offers some helpful tips for getting upgraded.

And our investigative reporter Jim Hoffer continues his examination of the NYPD's arrest and detention policy. This time Jim has video tape of three college students who were ticketed for "blocking pedestrian traffic." Problem is - the sidewalk was virtually empty. So - as Jim has asked before - is the NYPD consumed with quotas?

And finally, has anyone else noticed that it's getting ruder out there on the streets of New York City? I have. And today I got angry - I shouldn't have, I know - at a commercial truck driver who was behind me and was honking at me as we were both waiting to turn right on a green light. My infraction? I was waiting for people to clear the crosswalk - people who had a "walk" sign in their direction. Finally, the driver veered around me, on the inside, cutting off several people in the crosswalk. Funny thing about rushing while driving in Manhattan. Make a right turn on a green light, and the next light is almost always red, since the signals are synced. So I pulled up next to him and asked, in a less-than-pleasant tone and a louder than normal voice, what he was thinking, cutting off people who were walking? He yelled something. I yelled back. And we drove off.

I shouldn't have done it. But these are kids at school time walking in the crosswalk. These are people heading to work. If no one confronts bad drivers, what happens?

I feel mixed about all this. And now I feel better, letting it out. So thanks.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER

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