Cathie Black’s Sophie’s Choice Jokes Fall Flat

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Photo: Patrick McMullan

Less than two weeks into her new gig, Schools Chancellor Cathie Black has reportedly riled parents and public officials by cracking some jokes last week during a meeting at state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's office. When a public-school dad voiced concern about the "huge shortages" of classroom space in lower Manhattan that could be coming, Black remarked: "Could we just have some birth control for a while? It could really help us all out a lot."

Ha! That one makes us like her a little. The act, however, didn't stop there:


The public-service novice, who has spent her entire career in media and publishing, also dropped jaws at the meeting by likening her task of satisfying space-crunch concerns in every neighborhood to making "many Sophie's Choices" — a reference to the book in which a mother in the Auschwitz death camp is forced to decide which of her two children will live.

"Everybody's face fell. You don't want to hear that reference when you're talking about children," said Tricia Joyce, whose kids attend the perennially overcrowded PS 234 in TriBeCa.

Department of Education spokeswoman Natalie Ravitzm said, "[Black] takes the issue of crowded schools seriously. She regrets if she left a different impression by making an off-handed joke." She did not suggest the next meeting simply require a two-drink minimum.

Parents fume over Black's 'birth control' quip about overcrowding [NYP]