When Carmen Fariña stepped into the role of schools chancellor in 2014, she brought sanity back to New York City public education after 12 long years of Michael Bloomberg’s disastrous business-knows-best chancellors.
Fariña got rid of the simplistic Bloomberg-era school grading system based largely on standardized test scores, and she put into practice a more nuanced way to assess schools. She oversaw the implementation of Mayor de Blasio’s universal prekindergarten initiative, and she brought bilingual and dual-language programs out of the shadows.
In the 2014 DOE-UFT contract she helped negotiate, Fariña worked with the UFT to carve out more professional development time during the work day, so teachers could better apply the Common Core learning standards that had been rushed into effect by the state.
Sensitive to concerns about the school-to-prison pipeline, Fariña instituted restorative justice programs to make sure schools can be places for healing, not punishment. And in a hostile political climate, she let everyone know our schools are safe spaces for immigrant children.
As a lifelong educator, she knew the answers are “in the building.” Fariña urged collaboration across and within schools so the success of one could become the success of many. In the 2014 contract, she gave classroom educators a chance to lead by example through teacher leadership positions in which they can share the secrets of their success with peers.
Above all, she helped restore dignity and respect to teachers and the teaching profession.
The fruits of her labor are clear in higher test scores, lower dropout rates and higher graduation rates in our public schools.
Hers are big shoes to fill. Our school communities will be closely watching the next chancellor — and expecting the new leader to build on Fariña’s gains.