Dennis Walcott was given the job just 95 days after Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Cathie Black to the post. Black's short and controversial run prompted one of her friends to say the mayor had thrown her under the school bus.
Walcott walked his grandson to school in the St. Albans section of Queens Friday morning. The new chancellor is a product of the New York City school system, as are his four children. The move is a bold reversal from City Hall and Bloomberg, and most of Black's critics believe that someone from within the system will be more effective in running the system.
"We decided that it was time to move forward," Bloomberg said at a news conference Thursday morning.
The hallways and balconies at the Department of Education filled and workers cheered the mayor's move to replace Black with his deputy mayor for education.
Walcott has two masters degrees and was a kindergarten teacher. And he and his children all attended the city's public schools.
He is promising to continue the mayor's reform policies.
"It'll be basically the same," he said. "I mean, if anything, we're going to have a deepening of the reform."
Black may have been the last to know she was on the way out. The mayor saw the polls, as just 17 percent of New Yorkers approved of her.
He also saw the resignations of four deputy chancellors, and he heard from DOE insiders who said Black was overwhelmed and increasingly timid. Her jokes at a public meeting on school overcrowding didn't help. She suggested it could be fixed with birth control.
"I think the writing was on the wall," Community Board 1 chairwoman Julie Menin said. "They're having someone who is not an educator, who doesn't have experience in city government, lead the nation's largest public school system. It didn't make sense from the start."
Despite her rocky tenure, Black bowed out gracefully. She wrote in her letter of resignation that she wishes her successor the best of luck.