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Mayor-Elect Names Carmen Fariña to Lead City Schools

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Incoming mayor Bill de Blasio will be the first mayor with a child in the public schools and the second mayor to control the school system and pick its leader. His choice? Someone with even more connections to city schools than he has. Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Carmen Fariña is a former New York City deputy schools chancellor, superintendent, principal and teacher.

“At heart, I am a teacher,” Fariña said at a press conference to announce the appointment on Monday.

This week, she'll become schools chancellor, signaling the start of a very different approach toward running the city's largest agency.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg put managers in charge, with an educator like Farina as deputy. For mayor-elect de Blasio, it's the reverse, no longer top down.

To me, all change happens in the classroom. Everything that is important in this system is in the classroom.

Fariña has deep connections to city schools, with the personal inspiring the professional.

A fierce advocate for students who don't speak English, she entered a Brooklyn kindergarten understanding only Spanish, the child of immigrants from Spain.

“Because the teacher could not pronounce my name, she absolutely made me invisible,” said Fariña.

Decades later, as deputy chancellor in charge of teaching and learning from 2004 to 2006, Farina says she worked to make every school worthy of her new grandson, Charlie.

Now, she says he helped convince her to come out of retirement, at age 70, to run the whole system, with it's 1.1 million students and $22 billion budget.

“I said, ‘What do you think if abuela takes on this big challenge?’ Charlie said, ‘Abuela, you're the best teacher in the whole world, why wouldn't you do it?’” she said.

With just a day between the announcement and the new chancellor's first day on the job, we asked the Mayor elect why this particular appointment took so long.

“I had to be 100 percent sure that not only was there the talent, the experience, the temperament, but also the philosophy, the sense of how we're going to approach this whole range of issues,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio says he conducted a competitive, national search, though he has declined to make any details public.

In the end, the mayor-elect says he kept coming back to the woman who has been his informal education advisor for more than a decade: soon-to-be Chancellor Fariña.

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