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School chancellor starts job touring

The publishing executive chosen to lead New York City's sprawling public school system will spend her first day as chancellor on a five-borough school tour today.

Former Hearst Magazines Chairwoman Cathie Black will begin the day at a school in Brooklyn, then race to schools in Queens, the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island.

Black takes over as school chancellor having already dodged one bullet: The severe winter storm that came during the Christmas break, so she did not have to decide whether to declare one or more snow days.

Additionally, a judge ruled Wednesday against foes of Black who maintain that she is unfit to head the school system because she has no advanced degree and no background in education.

Justice Gerald Connolly of State Supreme Court in Albany dismissed three lawsuits that sought to overturn Black's appointment, ruling that the state education commissioner was within his authority to excuse her from the credentials normally required for the post.

The petitioners are weighing their options and might appeal the judge's decision, said Noah Gotbaum, one of the public school parents who had petitioned to deny Black the chancellor's job.

"The system has major educational issues, and in order to solve those we need someone who understands what goes on in the classroom, what goes on in our schools," Gotbaum said Sunday. "Instead we have someone who is so out of touch as to almost be embarrassing."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who surprised nearly everyone when he announced the selection of Black to succeed Joel Klein as chancellor, praised Connolly's ruling and said Black "has been working hard and is ready to hit the ground running on Monday, her first official day on the job."

Black, 66, has given few interviews since Bloomberg introduced her Nov. 9 as the next chief of New York City's 1.1 million-pupil school system.

She defended her skills and experience as a manager of large, complex organizations in an interview broadcast Dec. 5 on WABC-TV.

"Give me a chance. I will listen. I will be out in the community," she said. "Don't judge someone that you have never even met."

Black has served as publisher of USA Today and as CEO of Hearst Magazines, where she oversaw titles including Esquire; Good Housekeeping; O, Oprah magazine; and Popular Mechanics.

She is the author of a how-to book called "Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life)."

Her appointment reflects Bloomberg's conviction that success in business translates to similar achievements in public service.

"There is no one who knows more about the skills our children will need to succeed in the 21st-century economy," Bloomberg said at a City Hall news conference with Klein and Black.

Before Klein joined the Bloomberg administration in 2002, he was with media conglomerate Bertelsmann AG. Previously, he was an assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration. He headed the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust division for nearly four years, where his work included launching the case to break up Microsoft Corp. He has left to take a position with News Corp.

Klein grew up in New York City and attended public schools, whereas Black attended Catholic schools in Chicago and sent her own children to an elite boarding school in Connecticut.

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