Carmen Fariña Named Schools Chancellor

Carmen Fariña. (Screengrab: NY1)

Carmen Fariña. (Screengrab: NY1)

Education veteran Carmen Fariña will be the city’s next schools chancellor, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio announced today.

Ms. Fariña, a 40-year veteran from the city’s school system and a longtime advisor of the mayor-elect on education issues, will take over from Dennis Walcott later this week, Mr. de Blasio said at a Monday press conference, located at a Park Slope middle school.

The announcement, which was widely reported Sunday night, marks the latest hire for Mr. de Blasio, who will officially take office at 12:01 a.m. on January 1 and has so far appointed just a handful of top-level posts.

Ms. Fariña, 70, a former teacher, principal and deputy schools chancellor, had originally said she wasn’t interested in leaving retirement for the job, but apparently Mr. de Blasio changed her mind.

View the full press release unveiling Ms. Fariña’s hire below:

Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio today announced his appointment of Carmen Fariña as Schools Chancellor. In naming Fariña to lead the nation’s largest school system, de Blasio—himself a public school parent—emphasized his commitment to working with parents as partners in education, establishing truly universal pre-kindergarten for four-year-olds and after-school programs for middle schoolers, and prioritizing college and career readiness over high-stakes testing.

Fariña has 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.

For her Chief of Staff, Fariña appointed Ursulina Ramirez, a former social worker, Deputy Public Advocate and current Deputy Director of Mayor-Elect de Blasio’s Transition.

“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 Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio.

“True change happens not through mandates and top-down decision making but through communication, collaboration and celebrating the successes along the way,” said incoming Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “Raising the success rate of our students is the only goal. I anticipate the entire city will aid us on this effort.”

“Carmen Fariña has the depth of knowledge and proven experience in our city’s education system that only comes from working in New York City public schools for 40 years,” said Representative Nydia Velázquez. “Fariña knows firsthand that the strongest path toward real education reform grows from the bottom up — and I’m confident she will work tirelessly to ensure parents, educators and students are valued and fully included in the decision-making process next year.”

“Mayor-Elect de Blasio has made an excellent choice in picking Carmen Fariña to lead New York’s public schools. For the first time in many years the nation’s largest school system will be led by an educator with a keen understanding of curriculum and instruction, who is committed to actively supporting our public schools,” said Professor of Education and Executive Director of the Metropolitan Center at New York University Pedro Noguera. “Dr. Fariña brings a broad range of knowledge and experience to the role and is well aware of the strengths and weaknesses within the system. Her appointment is a major step forward for New York City’s schools and its children.”

“Our next Chancellor has excelled as a teacher, a principal and a superintendent. She knows every aspect of this school system inside and out. She knows how to help teachers improve their skills, and how to train principals to lead,” said Chair of the New York State Assembly Education Committee Cathy Nolan. “That’s the kind of expertise that will enable Carmen Fariña to transform our schools in a way that brings everyone together in common cause.”

“Carmen Fariña is a true change agent. She knows how to innovate and bring people together. She’s been a conscience and a voice for the disempowered in this school system for as long as I can remember,” said Council Member and Manhattan Borough President-Elect Gale Brewer. “I’m thrilled Mayor-Elect de Blasio has chosen a Chancellor who can move us past the divisiveness that has held back our school system, and usher in a new era of shared purpose so we can lift up every school.”

“As Chairman of the New York City Education Sub-Committee, I congratulate Carmen Fariña on her appointment as Chancellor,” said State Senator and Chairman of the Senate NYC Education Sub-Committee Simcha Felder. “She undertakes a monumental responsibility and will be an important advocate for students and parents throughout the New York City public school system. I look forward to working with Chancellor Fariña to ensure our students realize their individual talents and have every opportunity to succeed. Mayor-Elect de Blasio has made extraordinary appointments and I am confident that Fariña will work tirelessly as the new Chancellor and will serve New York City well.”

“As a parent of two public school students, I couldn’t be more excited to have Carmen Fariña as the next Chancellor of the NYC Department of Education,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “Families and educators from Park Slope to Red Hook revere Carmen for what she did to make our diverse schools great. She healed divisions, cultivated countless great teachers and principals, and transformed our schools into some of the most successful, creative, and inclusive in the city.”

“As a former public school teacher, I could not be more excited to have a Chancellor who understands what it means to step inside a classroom. Carmen has an incredible depth of experience to guide her,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm. “Under Fariña, our city is gaining a chancellor who understands that universal early education, high-quality after-school programs, de-emphasized testing, and consistent parental involvement are key to student success.”

“Mayor-Elect de Blasio has made an excellent choice in Carmen Fariña. Carmen is a model educator and she puts the partnership between parents, teachers, students and communities at the center of all that she does,” said NYC Coalition for Educational Justice parent leader Ocynthia Williams. “She has been a strong ally to CEJ and a proven advocate of parent engagement for years, dating back to her support of CC9′s Lead Teacher Program in the Bronx, when she was Deputy Chancellor of Teaching and Learning, and continuing after she left the DOE. CEJ believes we can give our children brighter futures by supporting quality schools grounded in strong neighborhoods and Carmen shares our vision. While this won’t be achieved without struggle, CEJ parents are looking forward to embarking on this new day in education together, with Chancellor Fariña!”

“Carmen Fariña brings a powerful combination of pedagogical and leadership experience to this position, and we are pleased that Mayor-Elect de Blasio has appointed someone who so deeply shares our commitment to advancing equity and excellence in the city’s public schools,” said Associate Director of New York City Organizing with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform Oona Chatterjee. “We look forward to partnering with her as she takes on the considerable challenges of her new role.”

“Carmen Fariña is an excellent pick — she knows the New York City public school system inside-out and is an expert educator. She is ready-made to carry out Mayor-Elect de Blasio’s mandate to take our schools in a new and successful direction,” said Advocacy Director for the Alliance for Quality Education and public school parent leader Zakiyah Ansari. “Our children’s future is looking brighter already, as we will finally have an educator as a chancellor. Parents, students, teachers and advocates have been waiting for this moment and are ready to collaborate with Chancellor Fariña to give every child the high quality education they deserve.”

Fariña has been charged with an ambitious agenda to improve New York City schools, including creating 100 new community schools in high-poverty neighborhoods, innovating new Career and Technical Education pathways that prepare students for good jobs, empowering communities to meaningfully shape school decisions, and improving the middle school experience with increased guidance services, enhanced arts and technology programs and extended day wrap-around services.

About Carmen Fariña:

Carmen Fariña has spent over 40 years working at virtually every level of the New York City’s school system to ensure children receive a quality education. During her career, she distinguished herself as a model educator and principal who inspired others across the school system to adopt teaching practices she had pioneered.

Fariña began her education career at Brooklyn’s P.S. 29, where she spent 22 years as an elementary school teacher. Her reading curriculum was so successful that the Board of Education recruited her to expand it for second through ninth grades, and to train teachers on its use. During her five years as District 15’s Core Curriculum Coordinator, Fariña authored “Making Connections,” a multicultural and interdisciplinary program later published by the New York City Board of Education and replicated in every school district.

Over the next 10 years, Fariña became one of New York City’s most successful principals. Under her leadership, Manhattan’s P.S. 6 rose to become one of the top 10 schools citywide in both reading and math – a remarkable improvement as the school ranked 76th among public elementary schools just three years before Fariña joined its faculty.

In 2001, Fariña was elected as Community Superintendent of Brooklyn’s District 15, and began a remarkable turnaround of a deeply divided school community. Fariña earned accolades from administrators, parents and teachers for turning a district that was in a “state of siege” to a “state of grace” by enhancing staff training, meeting with staff and parents, and collaborating with the educators in the district.

Fariña later rose to become Regional Superintendent of Region 8 and then Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning at the Department of Education in 2004, where she developed new strategies to better prepare middle school students for junior high school. As deputy chancellor, she promoted increased interventions for middle school students, which included $40 million to support Saturday classes, organizational and study skills workshops, counseling for parents, and teacher training. Fariña made improving special education a personal priority, improving services available to special education students in neighborhood schools, including reducing travel time on school transportation.

Since departing the Department of Education, Fariña has become a widely respected advocate for comprehensive early education, community involvement in school decision-making, and policies that better link the education system with social services for vulnerable families. She has been a vociferous critic of the current approach to low-performing schools, which largely relied on closing them. She has offered bold alternatives, such as pairing principals from schools with mirroring student populations, where one school is performing well and the other is not, to exchange ideas about best practices.

Fariña is a strong believer that principal-to-principal and teacher-to-teacher professional development is the most effective means of professional development. She has mentored hundreds of principals in areas of literacy and professional development, and continued to shape the school system to this day.

About Ursulina Ramirez:

Ursulina Ramirez most recently served as the Deputy Public Advocate and Senior Policy Advisor to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. Prior to working for the Public Advocate, Ursulina was the Senior Policy Analyst at the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families (CHCF) where she advocated for increased access to quality early childhood education in New York City’s Latino communities. Before working in public policy, Ursulina began her career in direct service. She was a child care worker at a residential treatment facility for severely emotionally disturbed youth and also worked for several years as an advisor to first-generation college students.