Yesterday evening, after a drawn out decision-making process full of panels, waivers and lawsuit threats, state Education Commissioner David Steiner approved a waiver that allows Cathie Black to serve as city Schools Chancellor, with Shael Polakow-Suransky serving as the city's first chief academic officer. And in case you question his judgment, he has taken the time to explain why he thinks Black is right for the job.

In a 12 page letter [pdf], Steiner outlines the requirements for becoming Chancellor, and notes that, "Ms. Black, however, does not meet the graduate coursework or experience requirements." But after reviewing her acquired "knowledge and skills," Steiner determined, "Despite her lack of direct experience in education, I find that Ms. Black’s exceptional record of successfully leading complex organizations and achievement of excellence in her endeavors, warrant certification for service in the New York City School District."

Steiner's letter included almost word-for-word what Bloomberg has been arguing, that "Ms. Black has demonstrated a skill critical to Chancellorship, namely the ability to lead a large multi-faceted organization confronting enormous challenges and complexities." And though Polakow-Suransky will be in charge of "the administration and supervision of the district's instructional programs," Bloomberg insists that there can only be one. He said at a press conference yesterday, "There will be one person in charge. Make no mistake about that."

Steiner's decision, despite his acknowledgment of Black's shortcomings, could fuel arguments from people like civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel, who said at a rally on Sunday, “We believe Cathie doesn't meet [state] requirements. The commissioner will have to justify why he has given the waiver and if the justification has no basis in the law. We can go to court." State lawmakers still plan to sue to block the appointment, and are placing the blame squarely on Mayor Bloomberg. Education policy professor Pedro Noguera told the Times, "No one thought that mayoral control would mean that the mayor would be the only person who makes decisions...There was supposed to be some system of checks and balances."