Carmen Fariña touts new direction for NYC schools

New York City's schools Chancellor Carmen Farina speaks

New York City's schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña speaks at the Teachers College at Columbia University Academic Festival in Manhattan on April 12, 2014. (Credit: Anthony Lanzilote)

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña Saturday marked this past week's 100-day milestone of the de Blasio administration by touting its new educational philosophy -- and lamenting some of the previous 12 years.

Though never mentioning her targets by name, Fariña was clearly digging at how her predecessors under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg ran the nation's largest school system.

"For too long, the education efforts of this city were outside the classroom," she said during an address at Columbia University's Teachers College. "That changed 100 days ago."


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Bloomberg had appointed almost all non-educators as his schools chancellors -- notably Joel Klein, a former corporate and Justice Department lawyer, and magazine executive Cathie Black, who had a brief and stormy tenure.

Time and again Saturday, Fariña took pains to delineate the differences between Bloomberg's Department of Education and de Blasio's.

"Today, I'm here to tell you where all the answers are to some of our more perplexing education problems: They're in the room," she said, promising to "return joy to the classroom."

She subtly jabbed at Bloomberg's tenure on issue after issue, including letter grades issued to schools ("I don't believe a single, often arbitrary, letter grade encapsulates an entire school"); parent involvement ("We know they've been shut out for far too long"); and high-stakes testing ("Rote memorization and excessive test prep won't get us there. It has to end").

But she offered an olive branch to the charter-school movement in a gesture that lacked the pugilism of earlier this year, when she insisted that such institutions the de Blasio administration had displaced were "on their own."

She has since apologized for that remark, and the administration has promised to find them space.

"We need all our children to succeed," she said. "It doesn't matter if they go to a traditional public school, a charter school, a religious school, an independent school -- they all will shape the future of New York."

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