News Corp. executive vice president Klein gives an accounting of the remaking of New York City's school system during his eight-year term as chancellor.
Trained as a lawyer and serving in President Bill Clinton's Justice Department, the author was appointed as the head of the nation's largest school system by newly elected Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2002, after the state legislature voted to give the mayor full authority over city schools. Using a national network of collaborators, Klein became one of the most influential figures in American education. He was also among the most controversial figures, but he makes it clear that the mayor was in charge. On Martin Luther King Day in 2003, Bloomberg announced the reform program called “Children First,” which Klein calls “the most carefully crafted public address of his time in office.” Part of the plan included the elimination of New York City’s elected school boards, along with the district superintendents’ offices. From then on, the schools were to be run centrally. “I wanted control [of the schools],” said Bloomberg, “and I got control. And I am going to do something about it.” Klein was tasked with the restructuring of three separate but related problem areas—political, bureaucratic and educational—to benefit the children. First on his agenda was empowering school principals by freeing them from political patronage and bureaucratic obstructionism. To that end, he set up a principals' training institute and program. Over a four-year time frame, the 1,000-page teachers' contract was renegotiated, and curriculum changes were introduced. The author also sought to lower the dropout rate, and he notes that relations with the teachers' union were vital to his efforts to improve the quality of education for New York City students.
A skillful account of how Klein maneuvered between parent and teacher concerns and city politics to transform the city's education system.