Wednesday, October 01, 2014

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New Teachers' Contract Reveals Schools Chancellor's Plans to Change System

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The teachers' union contract is not just a big win for the mayor, it's also the first time his schools chancellor has revealed how exactly she plans to change the system. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Chancellor Carmen Fariña says during her four decades of work in city schools, she's been honing a vision of how teachers, schools and the entire system should work. Now, she says, the new teachers' union contract turns those ideas into policy.

"I have been smiling for the last 24 hours," Fariña said. "And I have to say that a lot of the things that are in this contract are things I wished for, dreamed about, and never thought I'd see happen."

That includes ways for teachers to move forward in their careers without having to leave the classroom, flexibility for schools to innovate, and lots of dedicated time for educators to meet with each other and their students' parents.

"I remember when I tried to do this as a principal, and I had to go behind people's backs," Fariña said.

Now, she can change the rules, and the contract agreement is the first major indication of how exactly she'll do that.

Up until this point, her answer to most questions about changing specific policies has been really no answer. The chancellor and her aides say that's because she wanted to listen to people before making any changes. She's already visited 36 different schools.

Very little of that has made it onto a public schedule, however. Recent chancellors have had public events almost every day. With Fariña, reporters are rarely invited in.

NY1 requested her schedule through the Freedom of Information Act. We've been given the first month, during which time, the chancellor had 209 different meetings, events or scheduled phone calls, nearly a dozen with the mayor, many involving her senior staff and others with a wide variety of stakeholders, from the Secretary of Education to union presidents to individual school principals.

It's a style that is now soon to be reflected in actual policy, with the contract deal giving educators hours of dedicated time each week to do as the chancellor does: observe, discuss and listen.

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