Last week, New York Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced her plans to retire. After her recent announcement of school closures, she used a news conference with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to reflect on her tenure.
Fariña told reporters that she wasn’t surprised by the jobs’ difficulty, but added, “Why don’t they listen more to the communities and get the information from them rather than just look at piles and piles of research, which may not be as informative?” She said that a school chancellor should look to collaboration first before basing everything on competition.
“One of the things I am proud of that doesn’t really come up a lot in statistics is our work on co-located high schools,” Fariña said. “We are now working with 25 co-located high schools that serve about 145 schools. This notion that if you are the best at something, in the same building with someone else who is struggling with something else, to me is a foolish endeavor.”
Jenny Sedlis, executive director of the pro-charter school group StudentsFirstNY, said Fariña’s background and bona fides are to be praised, but her tenure as a chancellor left something to be desired.
“Chancellor Carmen Fariña has dedicated her career to public service, and no one can question that she has fought tirelessly for what she believes in,” stated Sedlis in an email to the AmNews. “However, after four years of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s control of public schools, far too many low-income students remain trapped in struggling schools. We hope that the next chancellor will push the mayor to embrace evidence-based policies and parental choice.”
When Fariña, a career educator, took over as chancellor in 2014, officials from the United Federations of Teachers noted that she was the first chancellor this century who “met all of the formal requirements for the job and didn’t need a state waiver.” Fariña’s appointment was just three years removed from the chaotic three-month tenure of former magazine executive Cathie Black as schools chancellor.
De Blasio centered Fariña’s achievement’s as “extraordinary” and said New York City schoolchildren and parents were in good hands.
“Highest graduation rate in the history of New York City, highest college enrollment rate for our young people, highest college readiness rate, four years of improved test scores, obviously a crucial role in the launching of pre-K, which has been profoundly important to the future of this city, and then the launching of 3-K,” said de Blasio to reporters during a news conference. “I remember being in that classroom with Carmen in the first hours of 3-K starting in this city and seeing the shape of the future.”
The AmNews attempted to contact Success Academy for a statement on Fariña but by press time were unsuccessful. However, Chalkbeat New York did report that the charter school’s founder and CEO Eva Moskowtiz distributed a list of 14 people she’d recommend the city consider as Fariña’s successor. Some of the recommended names include Indianapolis superintendent Lewis Ferebee, former chief of the Baltimore City Public Schools System Andres Alonso (who was once rumored to take over the chancellor position before de Blasio chose Fariña) and former head of Tennessee’s state-run Achievement School District Malika Anderson.
Members of the New York City Coalition for Educational Justice, however, just want a chancellor who considers the cultural sensitivities of the city’s children. In a statement after Fariña’s announcement, the parent-led coalition felt that the chancellor’s last days should be devoted to helping schools and teachers learn how to confront cultural biases and support diversity.
“We demand that the mayor choose an educator as the new chancellor, who has a strong vision for racial justice in schools and the skills to lead the NYC school system during a time when diverse communities of NYC are under attack,” read the statement. “Mayor de Blasio must step up to make sure the next chancellor has the plan and support needed to make NYC a model for how school districts can address the forces of racism and bias.”