Revealed: Where Chancellor Spent the Rainy Day

If you guessed that Cathleen P. Black spent the day visiting two schools in Queens — Public School 111 in Astoria, and P.S. 78 in Long Island City — give yourself two points.

Ms. Black, the chancellor-designate, is visiting schools around the city before she formally takes over the helm of nation’s largest public school system on Jan. 3. The city did not reveal which schools she was visiting on Wednesday until hours after the visits were concluded, arguing that they were “private,” without elaborating. Photographs released by the city this evening show seemingly innocuous scenes of the chancellor with schoolchildren, teachers and officials.

City Room had asked its readers to guess where Ms. Black, the former chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, might be Wednesday. No one came close to the answer, but perhaps you were playing privately at home.

For bonus points, Ms. Black visited classrooms with Cathy Nolan, the local state assemblywoman and chairwoman of the education committee, and Jimmy Van Bramer, the local City Council representative.

The New York Times and other media organizations are pressing for the visits to be made public before they happen, because Ms. Black, who lacks traditional education credentials, is a public official whose schedule is a matter of public interest.

As she visits schools in each borough to help her learn about the New York school system and public education more generally, some of the visits will be public and some will be private, Natalie Ravitz, a Department of Education spokeswoman, said earlier Wednesday.

Ms. Nolan selected today’s schools, both of which have predominately poor, ethnically diverse student populations.  P.S. 111, she said, was an example of a school that had turned around in recent years under a strong principal after years of attendance and violence problems. Still, less than 20 percent of the children passed this year’s state English exam, and 25 percent passed math.

P.S. 78, where they stopped only briefly, was an example of the challenges of putting a school into leased space. The school lacks a play yard and a gym, but nearly 60 percent of its students passed the state English exam, and nearly 70 percent passed math.

“They are two urban schools that are working and that highlight certain challenges,” she said. As for Ms. Black, “she seemed to like kids, she was respectful to the parents and she listened to what the principals had to say.”

“She certainly has a lot of issues to get up to speed on, but so did Joel Klein and so did Harold Levy,” Ms. Nolan added, referring to the last two chancellors. “It’s really the quality of the person and how they go forward. We’ll have to see.”

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