The Mayor-elect’s decision to put a veteran educator and daughter of Spanish immigrants in charge of the New York City’s public schools speaks volumes about his intention to break away from the policies of the Bloomberg era.
A real educator in charge of our public schools for a change — what a revolutionary idea from our mayor-elect!
In naming Carmen Fariña — a veteran teacher and principal and the daughter of Spanish immigrants — as the next chancellor of New York City public schools, Bill de Blasio has officially ended the era of beating up on teachers and public school parents.
For 14 long years, our chancellors have been either business executives or political aides from City Hall.
First Harold Levy, then Joel Klein, then the disastrous Cathie Black, then Dennis Walcott. All may have been well-intentioned, but none was qualified for the post. They had virtually zero experience with a classroom of children. They had never run a single school or even a mid-size district someplace else.
Despite that, two mayors, first Rudy Giuliani and then Bloomberg, simply handed them control over our nation’s biggest school system.
Thousands of good teachers and countless parents watched helplessly as neighborhood schools were suddenly closed without their consent. Those that survived became hostile environments. All that mattered to the bean counters at Tweed were high-stakes test results.
This was especially true under Bloomberg, who came in as “the education mayor.”
The Fariña appointment is a total repudiation by de Blasio of his predecessor’s policies.
Sure, Fariña worked for a time as deputy chancellor under Bloomberg, but she eventually resigned because of “philosophical differences,” she has said.
The department of teaching and learning that she headed was dismantled soon after she left, its work farmed out to an army of private consultants.
School safety was the only improvement during the Bloomberg years that Fariña acknowledged Monday in her opening press conference.
Otherwise, she and de Blasio left little doubt that major changes are coming.
As he did during his election campaign, de Blasio promised to “reduce the focus on high-stakes testing” and to institute a moratorium on new school closings.
Most importantly, he set a goal of creating “a system that actually respects parents.”
Fariña was even more pointed in her remarks.
“Teachers and administrators have been maligned,” she said. She vowed to reinstitute professional development and training of teachers, but to do so from within the school system itself.
She repeatedly stressed the need to treat parents as partners.
“She actually sees parents as allies in making the schools better, not as a nuisance to be kept out,” said Javier Valdes, executive director of Make the Road New York, a Brooklyn community group that hailed her appointment.
But the emotional high point of Fariña’s remarks came when she talked of entering city public schools speaking only Spanish, and of facing discrimination from a teacher who refused to learn to pronounce her name.
With Latinos now making up more than 40% of our school population, thousands of pupils from Latin America and other parts of the world continue to face the same kind of problem today, Fariña said. Too often, teachers pressure those children to Anglicize their names.
“Your children will be spoken to by the name you gave them,” the new chancellor promised.
Only a lifetime educator could grasp the importance of properly pronouncing every child’s name in the classroom.
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