Michael Bloomberg, the current mayor of New York City has recently won a political battle which places Cathie Black, whose forte according to The Queens Gazette “is marketing, advertising, and running large businesses,” as the new chancellor to the largest public education system in the United States. Many educators and public education lobbyists question Mr. Bloomberg’s decision. Only time will truly tell if the decisions made today will positively or negatively effect the New York City education system and the one million plus students that are served tomorrow.
The following story explains why business minded people are typically not the best choice to manage or lead within public education.
During a professional development seminar for educators, a motivational speaker and multimillionaire businessman was comparing his successful business model to the educational system. This well meaning gentleman explained how his company started with the best raw product ran it through the production stages and ended with this splendid product that everyone desired. During his closing when he asked for questions, a veteran teacher stood and simply explained why there was no correlation to his business minded model and public education. This teacher explained that within public education we do not have an option to choose only the best raw product. That we serve all children, turning away none, no matter how imperfect they may appear. She explained that within the educational process the raw material used is impacted by more outside factors than most, if not all of the raw product used by most modern day businesses. The speaker stood silently reflecting for a moment, not sure of what to say in response. He then spoke an awkward apology and applauded those in the audience for the job they do with their raw products.
Running a successful business is much different than running a successful school Sure there are some correlations, such as the management of people to insure the post productivity and instilling a vision and mission to guide the organization. However, it is the differences that business minded people will have the most difficulty. Working capital immediately comes to mind. Adjustments can not be made at the point of sale to increase profits. The raw product can not be turned away if it is “substandard.” Business minded professionals will find difficult managing and maintaining growth with little control over the aforementioned issues.
This is not to say that Cathie Black will not be successful. She has the prayers and hopes of many Americans both in New York City and across the United States. Mrs. Black will be challenged like no other time in her life, and I am sure she realizes that product of this new endeavor is our country’s most precious commodity, our children the future of this great country.