Can a publisher run schools? The experts debate

Michael R. Bloomberg, in his successful bid to become mayor, sold himself as an expert manager, a businessman who had made a fortune in private industry. He has now named Cathleen P. Black, a magazine executive, to be the next chancellor of New York City’s public schools. Why?

 “Cathie Black is a superstar manager who has succeeded spectacularly in the private sector,” Mayor Bloomberg said this month. “She is brilliant, she is innovative, she is driven–and there is virtually nobody who knows more about the needs of the 21st-century work force for which we need to prepare our kids.”

Ms. Black also has virtually no professional experience in education–not at the head of a classroom, not in charge of a school district, certainly not responsible for 1.1 million children. Is it, then, a sure thing that an expert manager in one field can succeed in another? The New York Times asked four prominent experts in business management what they made of the mayor’s choice, and his confidence in her transferable skills. As a group, they were not put off by the idea. They held up several examples of corporate chieftains who hopscotched successfully from industry to industry, people like Louis V. Gerstner Jr., who went from RJR Nabisco, a maker of food and cigarettes, to I.B.M, a maker of computer equipment…

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