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Questions plague chancellor appointment of Cathie Black

Cathie Black was officially approved Monday to become the city's next schools chancellor, but the path forward is riddled with questions about how she'll share duties with her No. 2, and whether legal challenges could derail the unorthodox arrangement.

Black needed a waiver because she lacked necessary education experience, and was accepted on the condition that former educator Shael Polakow-Suransky serve in the new role to help form and implement policy.

The duo will take office Jan. 1, after Chancellor Joel Klein leaves for a top post at News Corp., but the Bloomberg administration, which has made education reform a top priority, has been quiet on how the pair will split responsibilities.

In state Education Commissioner David Steiner's waiver approval, Steiner wrote that Polakow-Suransky, 38, will oversee teaching, learning and accountability and "will serve as chief advisor to the chancellor on major policy issues."

But Monday, Bloomberg reaffirmed that Black is boss, saying: "There will be one person in charge, make no mistake about that."

The legality of the appointment is also under scrutiny.

Norman Siegel, a civil rights lawyer, said both appointments are questionable.

"Not only does [Suransky] not solve the problem, it creates more legal problems," he said. "Can the chancellor just create the job without a job announcement? It could be in violation of equal employment opportunity."

A former educator, Polakow-Suransky taught at middle and high schools for six years before founding the Bronx International High School.

Black, 66, spent her career in publishing, most recently as the head of Hearst Magazines.

Michael Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, agreed, adding that even with Polakow-Suransky's education qualifications, Black herself remains unqualified.

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