It’s packing time for Joel Klein.
The city’s longest-serving schools chancellor since the title was created and the first appointed under mayoral control of the public-schools system clocked in for the last time yesterday.
In 8½ years, Klein took an old and largely inert school system and turned it on its head — putting “CEO” principals at the top of the bureaucratic pyramid, supported by floating networks of specialists and a central bureaucracy designed, at least in theory, to accommodate rather than dictate.
“Whether you agree with the reforms or not, it is the most profound set of reforms,” said Klein, who is exiting to work in educational technology for News Corp., which owns The Post. “The number I really need to get out there is that from 2002 to 2010, almost 20,000 more kids graduated high school — which is a huge difference.”
Among his most prominent changes, Klein emphasized greater accountability by rolling out tougher promotion guidelines for students in third through eighth grade and by rating schools with A-through-F letter grades — with dire consequences for schools that persistently failed.
He also fought for changes in the teachers-union contract that eliminated seniority transfer rights that had forced principals to accept veteran teachers from other schools to fill openings — rather than being able to hire their own picks.
Klein also overhauled the school-funding formula — paying schools differently depending on what type of kids they were serving — and experimented with cash incentives for principals, teachers and even students.
Despite the level of change — or because of it — Klein’s tenure was also a bumpy ride marked by nagging criticisms.
Parents, advocates and educators blasted Klein for dismissing their input, over-relying on consultants and no-bid contracts, closing schools rather than supporting them and turning classrooms into test-prep factories rather than real places of learning.
A recent post on the NYC Public School Parents blog, which has been one of the harshest critics of Klein, puts the sentiment bluntly: “Goodbye and good riddance to Joel Klein.”
“I don’t question his commitment to try to get something done, but I think too much of the focus was on trying to make them look successful rather than on actually being successful,” said City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Queens). “I think the biggest problem is that instead of focusing on the classroom, they focused on the bureaucracy.”
Since announcing his resignation last month, Klein has primarily been hearing not from critics, but from people who think he overhauled a dysfunctional school system and put it on the right track.
This includes hosts of principals to whom Klein has given more say on school staffing and budget decisions.
“I always compare him to the Dalai Lama,” said Arisleyda Urena, principal of the Academy for Language and Technology in The Bronx, whom Klein mentored. “He has such a great mind.”
Frank Cimino, principal of PS 193 in Brooklyn, said he initially disagreed with Klein about the chancellor’s emphasis on compiling detailed student data to guide instruction.
But Cimino said his ability to tangle openly with the chancellor was a testament to Klein’s ability as a leader.
“He never made you feel like your side of view was inconsequential — he listened, disagreed, challenged and respected,” said Cimino. “His commitment and passion helped make me a better principal.”