De Blasio makes some key appointments

Cyril Josh Barker | 1/2/2014, 11:47 a.m.

Schools Chancellor:Carmen Fariña

Background: Carmen Fariña brings 40 years of experience in New York City public schools. She began her career as a teacher at P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill, later rising to become a principal at Manhattan’s P.S. 6 and the superintendent of Brooklyn’s District 15. Fariña was appointed deputy chancellor for Teaching and Learning in 2004, and later went on to become a vocal advocate outside of government for comprehensive early education and parental involvement in school policy.

PROS: Polls show that education was a main concern for many during the mayoral campaign. With charter schools, standardized testing and Common Core at the forefront of issues, New Yorkers are looking for new leadership. Fariña is one of the first school chancellors in recent years who officially qualified for the job. (Previous chancellors in Michael Bloomberg’s administration had to get waivers.) Fariña also helped put together de Blasio’s plan for universal pre-K and expanded after-school programs for middle school students.

“Carmen won’t just be my chancellor as mayor; she’ll be my chancellor as a public school parent. For years, I’ve watched her innovate new ways to reach students, transform troubled schools and fight against wrongheaded policies that hurt our kids. Carmen has worked at nearly every level of this school system. She knows our students, teachers, principals and parents better than anyone, and she will deliver progressive change in our schools that lifts up children in every neighborhood,” said de Blasio.

CONS: Fariña was taken out of retirement, leading many to question if she is capable of leading the nation’s largest system at her age. During her announcement, no concrete answers were given on whether she would improve or eradicate issues that that are a top concern for school parents. There are also concerns about how she will handle the state’s newly implemented Common Core curriculum, which is not going over well. She must also work with union teachers who have not had contracts since 2009.

Mona Davids, president of the New York City Parents Union, said she hopes Fariña respects all parents as the real stakeholders in children’s education.

“Although the chancellor is not independent and serves at the pleasure of the mayor because of mayoral control, we hope Chancellor Fariña will always be a strong advocate for parent rights, Early Intervention Programs, students with special needs and English Language Learners—always putting children first before adult interests,” Davis said.

CONCLUSION: While Fariña seems to be a promising choice because of her background and credentials, she definitely has her work cut out for her undoing the work of a school system many believe has been broken and noninclusive for 12 years. However, her organic growth with New York City public schools could be the answer to the prayers of those looking to get the best out of the system that serves 1.1 million students.

Corporation Counsel: Zachary Carter

Background: Carter is an accomplished attorney who has spent his career in the private and public sectors ensuring that all people are treated equally under the law. As United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York for six years, Carter led an office that shut down dangerous gangs of inner-city crack dealers, exposed securities fraud boiler rooms allied with organized crime, and prosecuted international criminal organizations engaged in human trafficking and modern-day slavery.