Cathleen P. Black, the schools chancellor designee, is not a gusher. She is not an over-talker. She is a firm shaker of hands, a professional-grade eye-contact-maker and active listener. During an hourlong visit to Public School 33 in Chelsea on Monday morning, Ms. Black missed no opportunity to smile and say hello to school employees, from the office assistants to the person she later called the safety adviser (safety officer, but O.K., she is still new). Making the classroom rounds, she chatted with the children about pyramids and pets and greeted, but did not exactly bowl over, the teachers.
“Teachers need good knees,” she observed about midway through the visit, rising from the crouch she had been in while listening to some students talk about why they liked “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”
It is all new to Cathie Black: the knees, the numbers, the needs of the nation’s largest school system, where two-thirds of the students are poor enough to qualify for free meals. The current chancellor, Joel I. Klein, grew up in a housing project; Ms. Black, the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, acknowledged Monday that she had never set foot in one. She and her children attended private schools.