David C. Banks, the founder of Eagle Academy boys’ public schools, was named by Mayor-elect Eric Adams on Dec. 9 to be the next schools chancellor of New York City.
He will succeed Meisha Ross-Porter, who took the helm in March 2021.
In his introductory press conference, Banks, a former teacher and principal, promised that big changes are coming to the Department of Education, starting with shrinking the system’s bureaucracy.
“We are getting ready to not just play around with this,” Banks said. “What’s the value add to having thousands of people work at Tweed — for having thousands of people in these high-paid positions? There needs to be a transformation, and it starts at the top. We have to turn the tables over.”
Banks told reporters his first priorities would include expanding early childhood education, improving career pathways for older students, and helping students recover from the trauma of the pandemic.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the UFT shared common ground with Banks on the desire to take on the DOE bureaucracy and to address the damage done by the pandemic.
“David Banks is an educator who cares deeply about children,” Mulgrew said. “We have worked well with David in the past, and we look forward to continuing that relationship as he takes on the challenge of running 1,600 schools still suffering from the effects of the pandemic.”
Giving union officials more pause was the appointment as first deputy chancellor of Daniel Weisberg, who was the lead labor strategist for schools during the Bloomberg administration.
Adams echoed his new chancellor’s promise to cut fat from the system. “Every job that educates and cares for children will be safe,” the mayor-elect said. “If you’re there because you enjoy going to conferences, if you’re there because you’re using taxpayers’ educational dollars to pad your resume, if you’re there for anything other than educating our children, then you should be concerned.”
Speaking outside PS 161 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, which he attended from kindergarten through 5th grade, Banks spotlighted the achievement gap. “We spend $38 billion every year in this system and 65% of black and brown children never achieve proficiency. That’s a betrayal, and we ought to be outraged by that. And we need to lean into that.”
The son of a police officer, Banks graduated from Hillcrest HS in Queens. He once worked in public schools as a school safety agent.
Banks founded Eagle Academy in 2004 in the South Bronx, where he was the principal of a single school for 115 9th-graders. Eagle Academy has grown to a network of six schools, with additional locations in Ocean Hill/Brownsville in Brooklyn, Southeast Queens, Harlem, Staten Island and Newark, New Jersey.
Adams tweeted: “Right now we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine our education system to fix the entrenched inequalities that hold too many children back.”
Porter, who announced on Dec. 1 that she would be leaving at the end of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s term to run a Bronx nonprofit organization, struck a hopeful chord in a tweet about Banks’ appointment.
“I saw David’s deep commitment to education firsthand when we launched the Bronx School for Law, Government & Justice together, and I’m so proud that my colleague will succeed my tenure as chancellor. I know he will serve our city’s incredible students and school communities well,” she wrote.