On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio gave a major speech marking his first one hundred days in office. Saturday, it was the school chancellor’s turn, laying out the administration’s new approach to schools and poking fun at her own missteps. Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
For all her work in the first hundred days, Carmen Fariña may be best known a single quote.
“It’s absolutely a beautiful day out there right now,” she said on February 13.
That remark on a day the city was buried in snow sparked ridicule, but the chancellor shrugs it off as part of the job.
“A job where you can be tripped up by one of your own sound bites, no less, it truly is a beautiful day. I have perfect strangers meeting me and saying, ‘It’s a beautiful day, right chancellor?” she said.
Saturday, Farina delivered an address at Teachers College at Columbia marking her first 100 days, touting an emphasis on finding solutions within the system.
“For too long, the education efforts of this city were outside the classroom. That changed 100 days ago,” she said.
Fariña spoke of more collaboration and won applause with talk of returning dignity and respect to teachers and principals, who must now have seven years experience.
“This is not easy work. Very easy to criticize from the top, but spend one day in the school. I tell people who have very fancy jobs that I would like them to exchange one day to be in a classroom. And I guarantee, you’ll have a very different vision of what life is like,” she said.
Fariña touched on a number of policy decisions that represent a sharp break from the Bloomberg, including less of a reliance on high-stakes testing, particularly as it relates to promotion decisions; moving away from letter grades for schools; and less of a reliance on student suspensions.
There were digs at parent engagement under the previous mayor.
“When parents are engaged, children in schools benefit. We know they’ve been shut out too long,” she said.
And a past emphasis on competition among schools.
“We have to stop keeping what we do well a secret and give it away. That’s what educators really should be doing,” she said.
Farina mostly steered clear of the charter school controversy, though she did note she’s sending teams into schools to problem-solve where conflicts arise over shared space.