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Carmen Fariña named NYC's new schools chancellor

Carmen Farina reacts during a news conference at

Carmen Farina reacts during a news conference at MS 51 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Farina, a former teacher, principal and longtime advocate of early childhood education, will be the next leader of the nation's largest public school system. (AP, Dec. 30, 2013) Credit: AP

Carmen Fariña, who pledged to include parents in decision-making processes and treat unionized teachers as "true partners," will serve as New York City's next schools chancellor, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio said Monday.

"It's time to treat all members of the educational community like they matter again, and we need a leader who understands that," de Blasio said. "Carmen Fariña is that leader, and she is that educator."

Fariña, 70, returns to the Department of Education after retiring as deputy chancellor in 2006. She was a teacher, principal and superintendent in Brooklyn, with 40 years of experience in the school system.

De Blasio has long said he wants an educator as chancellor. Fariña is the first appointee since Rudy Crew in 1995 who does not require a waiver from the state for lack of training as a schools administrator. She will oversee more than 1.1 million students.

De Blasio announced her hiring at a news conference at the Park Slope middle school that his two children attended.

"It's such a privilege to be able to come back to a system that has so much work yet to be done, but to be doing it from a stance of a progressive agenda," Fariña said.

De Blasio commended Fariña for stepping down in 2006 amid ideological differences. Fariña said she had become disillusioned that teachers and principals were "not major players" in the system.

Fariña will return to New York after living in Florida and consulting with principals, often on a pro-bono basis.

"We're going to build on what was good," she said, adding that she would bring "joy" back to the system.

De Blasio will be sworn in ceremonially at noon Wednesday by former President Bill Clinton at City Hall. His team announced Monday that he will be sworn in formally at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday at his Park Slope home by state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

De Blasio said he would tackle union contract negotiations, including that of the United Federation of Teachers, which seeks millions of dollars in retroactive pay, "head on." Fariña said teachers and administrators have been unnecessarily maligned in the process.

De Blasio also said he would curb standardized testing "within the limits of state and federal law" and pursue a moratorium on the co-location of charter schools -- publicly funded but privately run -- in traditional public school buildings.

A flurry of charter school leaders released statements welcoming Fariña as chancellor -- but with notes of caution. "The question is will she protect and expand public charter school options for families who need and are demanding them?" asked Eva Moskowitz, chief executive of Success Academy Charter Schools.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew applauded Fariña's appointment, saying she "is on record criticizing Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg's focus on high-stakes testing."

Asked why it took him so long to appoint a school chancellor, de Blasio called the decision one of the "most important" of his career.

Fariña will replace Dennis Walcott, a Bloomberg appointee who took over in 2011 after former media executive Cathie Black was forced to resign after just three months on the job.De Blasio also announced Monday that Ursulina Ramirez, a senior transition team staff member and former deputy public advocate, would serve as Fariña's chief of staff.

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