re-posted from Parentadvocates.org and NYC Rubber Room Reporter
From Editor Betsy Combier:
The Carmen Farina I know is far worse than the person described in the media.
In the article written by Susan Oschorn below, you can read
“…her leadership a study in alienation, mistrust, and a careless disregard for democratic governance.”
“She was a good soldier in a regime driven by standards-based accountability, market forces, and wealthy financiers…”
When my youngest daughter was four years old, my husband and I decided that we would try to get her a seat in the well-documented, well-funded PS 6 near us on the upper east side of New York City. I and my other 3 daughters all attended the all-girls’ school Nightingale-Bamford, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, but we believed in the public school system, and wanted to be part of the diversity in the New York City Department of Education.
I applied Marielle to PS 6 which had a TAG (Talented and Gifted) program. However, my daughter only got onto the waiting list because we were not zoned for PS 6. So I wrote Carmen a letter telling her about how my husband came from Peru, (Carmen is also spanish-speaking, from Spain) and the hard work he was doing. The next day I received a call from Carmen, and she told me, “Betsy, you really know how to play the game”.
I had no idea what that meant.
When we started in September 1997, at the parent orientation Carmen came over to me and welcomed me. She said that she knew that I was in the arts (my mom was a Broadway producer, funder) and I taught playwriting, and she wanted me to think of a way to get funding for the arts at PS 6 and PS 198 located at 96th Street and 3rd Avenue. PS 198 had a vastly different school population than PS 6, with a majority of the families being African-American and Hispanic.
I was honored to be asked to help Carmen, so I went home and spent the night creating the Arts Together Community Partnership, with a brochure, how it worked to involve the parents and community, and an initial budget. I was paid nothing at any time. In fact, I told Carmen, when she told me she loved the project, that I did not want to handle any money. Carmen agreed to be in total control of incoming funds. This was my mistake, but I trusted her.
|Cover of ATCP Brochure
Drawing by Leigh Zagoory,
PS 6 kindergartner
Gloria Buckery was the first member of the ATCP.
For two years Carmen and I worked on this project, and I gathered parents and members of community businesses together to create a partnership for the arts at PS 6 and PS 198 and continue to fund arts programs after the $225,000 grant from the Annenberg Challenge For the Arts ran out, in 2000. Carmen paid for Great Books to train me, and I co-taught an after school program at PS 6.
What Carmen never told me or anyone else was that the money went to the Center For Arts Education, and no arts programs were set up at PS 198. I did not find this out until May 23, 2000, when Carmen asked me to talk about the ACTP at the Annenberg Challenge Conference at Riverside Church. I spoke about the PS 6/PS 198 partnership, and how Gloria Buckery and Carmen were setting up arts programs to follow up on the grant received from Annenberg, when two teachers from PS 198 came over to me and told me that there were no arts programs at PS 198, and Principal Buckery never mentioned anything about a grant or the ATCP. Many years later, Arts Education still failed the students in NYC – the money seems to be going somewhere other than to arts programs.
I saw PS 6 Assistant Principal Alice Hom (now Principal at PS 124) at the conference (Carmen was not there) and I went to her and asked her what was going on. She said in a non-convincing voice “Oh, I don’t know”, and rushed out.
When I returned home later that day, my telephone rang, and it was Carmen. For the next 20 minutes she screamed curses at me, called me a thief, a liar, and b**** and many other things. I hung up on her after I simply could not take it anymore.
I resigned from the PS 6 Executive Board, not because I did anything wrong, but I did not want to be in the room with Carmen Farina. I was still a parent of a student in the school. Then parents and teachers started talking with me about the “real” Carmen. They told me they were too afraid to speak against her when she walked around the school with her arms around me. They told me that she despises the UFT and tenured teachers, they told me. She also despises Gifted and Talented programs, (she ended the G&T Program at PS 6) and thinks all children should be equal, and get to level 2 or 3, not 1 or 4. She pushed a terrible math program, TERC, to the detriment of the children at PS 6, who valued traditional math with long division and addition and subtraction. When my daughter Marielle wrote an article about TERC and this article was published in the Riverdale Review, she was removed from the PS 6 math Team, and told she was too stupid to be on it. Before her self-esteem got too destroyed, I signed her up to take the Center For Talented Youth (CTY) Test, and she succeeded in getting into the math and English programs with a 99th percentile score. In 6th grade she moved on to the G&T school NEST+M, from which she graduated as a member of the National Honor Society.
For Marielle, it was a close call. She was almost a victim of the NYC Department of Education’s mobbing.
I reported Carmen after her screaming lunacy for not setting up the PS 6 School Leadership Team according to the regulations and law. She was reprimanded by the NYC DOE and she was removed from PS 6 in February 2001. Stunningly, she went to District 15 as District Superintendent and set up the ATCP there, under the title “First Tuesdays”. I own the copyright for the ATCP as I was never paid for the work I did on it at PS 6, so I let them know at District 15. I found out that she was working closely with Bill De Blasio, so I contacted his office.
Then my other 3 daughters, in 2001-2010 all in the public schools of New York City – 2 at Stuyvesant High School and 1 at La Guardia High School – were all attacked by their teachers and/or administrations of their schools. Carmen’s long arm of revenge reaches far and wide.
Scandals followed Carmen until, to the dismay of all the parents and teachers at PS 6 and beyond, Joel Klein brought Carmen back as Deputy Chancellor. She was told to “retire” or “be fired” after the Lee McCaskill scandal and then Bill De Blasio brought her back again when he was elected Mayor.
“Carmen Farina: Politics Wins With Her Appointment as Deputy Chancellor in New York City”
“A Question For Carmen Farina, NYC Chancellor: Where’s The Money?”
“DOE Axing Wife of Retired Brooklyn Tech High School Principal”
“The Problem With Carmen Farina being Chancellor Is….”
“Carmen Farina: Politics Wins with Her Appointment as Deputy Chancellor In New York City”
“Despite Too Many Questions of Improprieties, Carmen Farina is Named Deputy Chancellor For the New York City DOE”
Let’s all wish her well as she retires again, but please, politicians everywhere, don’t hire her again for any reason!!!!
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials
Not long before New York City’s public schools closed for winter break, Katie Lapham posted to Twitter a drab black-and-white photograph of a testing manual she had found in her mailbox, the imprimatur of Carmen Fariña in the upper left-hand corner. An elementary school teacher and long-time critic of education policy, Lapham felt sick. “We will continue to refuse the tests,” she wrote, with the hashtag #OptOut2018.
Within days of the delivery, Fariña confirmed that she was stepping down from her perch as chancellor—four years after Bill de Blasio had coaxed her out of retirement to run the nation’s largest school system. Her appointment had elicited guarded optimism among the city’s educators. They took comfort in her half-century of service, including a longtime stint as a teacher in Brooklyn and principal of a well-regarded elementary school in Manhattan. But Fariña’s more recent work was suspect.
As deputy chancellor under Joel Klein, her predecessor in the administration of billionaire Michael Bloomberg, Fariña was tasked with carrying out a policy agenda that many found problematic, if not repugnant. She was a good soldier in a regime driven by standards-based accountability, market forces, and wealthy financiers—from which, despite de Blasio’s best intentions, he has failed to fully extricate himself.
At the press conference convened to announce the news of her retirement, Fariña noted that she had not taken the job to win a popularity contest. She said she was “most proud of bringing dignity to teaching, joy to learning, and trust to the system.” De Blasio called her departure “bittersweet,” announcing a national search, already underway out of public view, for her replacement.
After a lifetime of service, nearing 75, Fariña is entitled to put the finishing touches on her narrative. But the cognitive dissonance could not be more acute.
She has left teachers and parents with an acrid taste, her leadership a study in alienation, mistrust, and a careless disregard for democratic governance. A battle with the parents of Central Park East I, an elementary school known for child-centered, play-based learning, became a flashpoint of her tenure as she continued to support an incompetent and abusive principal, out of sync with progressive ideals.
Fariña’s response to the city’s entrenched segregation—highlighted by a damning report issued by U.C.L.A.’s Civil Rights Project in 2014—reflected astonishing tone deafness. Let the children get pen pals, she urged; her solution to a deep wound and massive systemic failure seemed heartless and woefully inadequate.
The chancellor brooked no dissent. While Fariña softened her opposition to test refusal amid early talk of retirement, she was a staunch opponent of opting out, silencing critique of the city’s policies, and directing her deputies and administrators to follow suit with parents and teachers. In 2015, the New York City Council passed a bipartisan resolution in support of informing families about the right to have their children boycott the tests. Yet, as the season of the high-stakes Common Core exams began last year, the department of education had not cooperated, parents left in the dark.
De Blasio shared custody with Fariña of universal preschool, his signature education initiative. I welcomed the mayor’s bold venture, which began with a historic number of four-year-olds—more than 50,000—in the fall of 2014. Designed to address New York’s deep income inequality, “PreK for All” represented an attempt to level the playing field. Last fall, a limited number of three-year-olds joined their older peers. A “game-changer,” he had called the expansion, conceding the challenges that lay ahead.
The mayor, however, neglected to mention the risk to child well-being of toxic education policies. During his first term, the Common Core standards cast a dark shadow over our youngest children, condemning them to a treadmill of benchmarks and assessment before they can even lace up their running shoes. Their human right to a rich, joyful educational experience has been violated, rote learning, worksheets, and scarce time for play foisted upon little ones whose social-emotional and fine motor skills are in formation.
I posted the news of Fariña’s retirement to my Facebook page on the day of the winter solstice. Within minutes, a group of early childhood educators had gathered, offering their appraisal of the chancellor’s tenure and venting long-held grievances. The thread quickly grew longer.
The term child abuse appeared. A growing number of early educators across the country are anxious about the harm they’re inflicting on young children, the legacy of misguided education policies in place since the early aughts. Malpractice, they call it, and many are leaving, beaten down by the stress.
The vast wage gap between public school teachers and those in community-based organizations also cropped up. Most of the city’s three- and four-year-olds are enrolled in settings outside the public schools. Like the children in their care, these practitioners often live in difficult circumstances, while moonlighting to make ends meet on their subpar salaries. Such is the case nationally, the subject of a recent New York Times Magazine piece by Jeneen Interlandi. But the problem is especially urgent in New York, threatening the sustainability and success of de Blasio’s program.
Here, I’ve extracted some comments by early childhood educators, lightly edited:
I truly hope they get someone who will respect children, teachers, families, and child development principles, and who knows and respects that children need play and outdoor time and FUN!—Ellen Jaffe Cogan
The department of education requires two hours and ten minutes of play-based learning and one hour of gross motor (skill-building) in preKs. Unfortunately, many preKs—both school- and community-based—believe they must get children ready for kindergarten. If kindergarten was developmentally appropriate, there would not be pressure to do more rote-like teaching—Lisa North
The chancellor has no meaningful understanding of what early childhood education should look like, or respect for the work of early childhood teachers—Jeannette Corey
Since Bloomberg, kindergarten has not been an early childhood grade. That has helped to turn kindergarten into first grade. Disgraceful!— Renée Dinnerstein
The teachers are not supported by administrators. They are trained to be developmentally appropriate…but are told by their administrators to follow a canned curriculum that does not individualize. There is very little time for open-ended, spontaneous play—Dana Doyle
Those who are not on the ground don’t really understand the current situation and the gross inequities—from salaries to lack of nurses and security—between community- and school-based preKs. What they fail to realize is 3K for All and PreK for All are completely dependent on the community-based workforce, the physical spaces we have, and the expertise we all bring—Chloe Pashman
Who will, indeed, restore joy to learning, dignity to teachers, and trust to the system?
In this closely guarded search process, most of the people whose names have been floated haven’t captured my imagination. Missing are Michael Hynes, the superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford school district on Long Island, and Jamaal A. Bowman, founder and principal of the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action middle school in the Bronx. Each of them makes a powerful case for bringing joy and excitement back to learning, and they live and work by their words.
During Hynes’s four years in his large, diverse district, he has doubled recess time in kindergarten through fifth grade, brought yoga and meditation to all students, and reintroduced play and project-based learning into kindergarten through second-grade classrooms, from which they have been rapidly disappearing. He understands that children cannot be deconstructed, that their physical, emotional, academic, and social selves are inextricably linked.
Bowman caught my eye in 2015, when he wrote an op-ed for the Daily News, a paean to the whole child. A former teacher and the father of a preschooler, he understands the richness that all students bring to the process of teaching and learning, and the urgency of getting it right. As he wrote in a piece I published at my blog a year ago:
There is unlimited talent and potential within our schools. Children come to us full of excitement and infinite ideas. They believe and know that anything is possible. They are fearless, and not tainted by age, time, or the ridicule of failure. They are natural leaders; and when they find a passion, they’ll work vigorously to achieve mastery without provocation.
For New York’s next chancellor, we need a radical change of direction. The stakes have never been so high.