When John B. King Jr. takes over in January as President Barack Obama's new and presumably last education secretary, he'll likely face a political minefield resembling the one he recently staggered across in New York.
This White House administration's final year will probably end with all the same nationwide tensions still in play over high-stakes testing, curriculum mandates, labor and how "reform" is defined.
Like the bureaucratic version of a ninth-inning closer, King is expected to briefly fill in for departing seven-year Education Secretary Arne Duncan, to whom King is currently senior adviser. King would reportedly finish out the mission as acting secretary without Senate confirmation. No broad changes of direction are due.
On paper at least, the 40-year-old King, with deep roots in New York City, has an appealing mix of credentials to suit the White House agenda, from having created charter schools to designing curricula.
On Friday, King also showed he can appreciate teachers, at least those who molded him.
"New York City public school teachers are the reason that I'm alive," King said when Obama introduced him. "They gave me hope about . . . [what] could be possible for me in life."
Only last year, New York State United Teachers delegates unanimously called for King's removal as state education commissioner, citing a "rushed" rollout of Common Core standards. They blasted King for a "failure to listen to classroom teachers on professional issues." Duncan, too, was the target in 2014 of a negative resolution, from the American Federation of Teachers.
With King as state commissioner, test boycotts grew, attracting support from an array of teachers, parents and administrators, and raising concerns about the use of test scores when thousands of students opt out.
Obama alluded Friday to the education system being dragged "kicking and screaming" into change.
MEMORY LANE:As fellow grandees from inherited New York real estate, Donald Trump and Leona Helmsley did their share of tabloid feuding in the 1980s. A quote was attributed to the late "Queen of Mean" that she wouldn't believe Trump "if his tongue were notarized."
Author Kateri Drexler later wrote someone else first spoke the line but Helmsley was "happy to claim authorship."
Trump said after Helmsley died in 2007: "Leona was a mean woman, but she liked being that way."