Additional reporting by Karla Ovalle
NEW YORK — Black attendees at the National Action Network convention celebrated raucously today when news broke of the resignation of embattled New York City public schools chancellor Cathleen P. Black, to be replaced by Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott, an African-American.
“Hallelujah,” screamed a woman who jumped out of her seat during a panel on collective bargaining, spinning and high-fiving a neighbor. “She has seen the light!”
The removal of Black was a shock to many, including those in the audience who believe she had weathered the rough waters since her hiring by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and was now safe.
“Kathie Black got fired? I have a child in a public school in the city and for them to bring in a complete outsider was a joke. I’m glad she’s gone,” said Martha Smith of Brooklyn, NY.
The departure of the former magazine executive with no education experience comes after four months of public gaffes that destroyed her public image and tarnished Bloomberg’s reputation. In a Quinnipiac University poll conducted last month, Black’s approval rating was a dismal 17 percent. Close to 50 percent of respondents called for her resignation.
Many feel this was impetus for Bloomberg to jettison her.
“After those numbers broke, how can you not get rid of her?” said a smiling Janice Hawkins who celebrated with a friend upon hearing the news.
Walcott will now step in to run the largest public school district in the nation with over one million students.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz released a statement praising the hiring of Walcott.
“I join all of Brooklyn and our borough’s 300,000 public school students and their families in wholeheartedly welcoming Dennis Walcott—a proud son of New York City and product of the public school system, educator and, perhaps most importantly, parent and grandparent—as New York City Schools Chancellor.”
Even before the news of Black’s resignation broke, one panelist lodged a prescient grievance against Black. Norman Seabrook, the president of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, mentioned that Black didn’t belong in her position, and that Walcott was better suited for the job.
Close to an hour later, he broke the news of Black’s removal to the stunned, joyous crowd.
“I guess you can call me a visionary,” said a laughing Seabrook to audience applause.
According to Seabrook, a source close to Bloomberg’s office told him that the criticism of Black’s hiring was too much for the mayor to continue handling.
“Bloomberg’s office isn’t interested in dealing with this issue anymore, and have decided to replace her despite reports that she resigned,” Seabrook said.
Keep us bookmarked for continuous coverage of Sharpton’s 2011 NAN Convention!