Monday, January 6, 2014

Alan Singer, Mixed Feelings on Fariña, de Blasio

.... as far as I can see, Carmen Fariña has closer ties to the top 2% income bracket than the other 98% of the population and has always been willing to play political games... It remains unclear to me what Fariña has to offer the working class and poor Black and Latino students who have been left behind in the Bloomberg years....Alan Springer, HufPo
I've been presenting a variety of views on Farina, both pro and con. This Alan Singer piece at HufPo is pretty much con. Here he raises an interesting issue. Was Farina's success at PS 6 due to her attracting wealthier white parents or improving the lot of the struggling students?
She was principal at PS 6 on Manhattan's Upper East Side where the zip code is 10028, the median household income in 2011 was $107,895, and the population is 83% White. Fariña worked at PS 6 when Anthony Alvarado was Superintendent of Community School District 2 and achieved supposedly miraculous school improvement by offering special programs that attracted Manhattan's wealthy and professional families to the district's schools. PS 6 became a very popular school with New York's economic elite and benefited from being a Columbia Teachers College Mentor School, having close ties to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and receiving Annenberg grants. 
Wasn't that the mantra of the Bloomberg years? Make it look like education was improving by changing the kids -- the essence of what they did by chopping large schools into smaller ones, screening out the most difficult kids from the smaller ones and sending them down the line to the next large school in the daisy chain, or domino effect.
Fariña started as a teacher at PS 29 in tree-lined Brownstone Brooklyn located in the 11201 zip code where the population is 60% White and the median household income was over $91,000 in 2011. 
I'm not sure of this is a fair point given that Farina taught at PS 29 at a very different time. Singer should have given is the 11201 zpi code stats when she taught at PS 29, not 2011. (I'm too lazy to check them myself but I remember Cobble Hill as not being a gentrified area at that time.
Carmen Fariña first worked with Bill de Blasio when she was District 15 Superintendent in Brownstone Brooklyn and he was on the school board. It remains unclear to me what Fariña has to offer the working class and poor Black and Latino students who have been left behind in the Bloomberg years.
By the time she came back to District 15, many areas were in full gentrification mode. Thus the charge that the Lucy Calkins model would only work with gentrified kids in large classes and a level of arrogance that teachers who could not manage the feat of making it work were below par.
Fariña was also a Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning during the Bloomberg/Klein regime where her reputation as an advocate for children gave legitimacy to their programs. I only met Carmen Fariña once, at a social studies teachers' conference in 2006. We exchanged a few words and I expressed disappointment that Fariña did not speak out more forcefully for good education. At the time Bloomberg and Klein were trying to force secondary school teachers to use an inappropriate elementary school lesson format called the Workshop Model. Fariña's office maintained that New York City had no standardized lesson plan format, but that did not stop the DOE from enforcing one. Soon after our encounter Fariña quietly retired as deputy chancellor, suspected of using her influence to help a colleague who lived in New Jersey illegally place his child at PS 29.
The latter point was the Leo McCaskill, principal of Brooklyn Tech, story and that would require an entire blog post of its own. Sort of unfair of Singer to make the automatic assumption that this is why she left, but certainly might have been a factor.

Read the full post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/goodbye-mayor-mike-hello-_b_4524599.html
and below. Singer's being miffed that DeB hasn't gotten back to him to discuss the situation in the schools is, well, you fill in the blank.
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Goodbye Mayor Mike, Hello Bill and Carmen

Alan J. Singer
Monday, January 06, 2014 11:03 AM


Goodbye Mayor Michael Bloomberg. As you can probably guess from my very critical Huffington Posts during the past four years, I am not sorry to see you go.

Hello Bill de Blasio and Carmen Fariña. A lot of my friends in public education have high hopes for your tenure as mayor and school chancellor, but based on your previous performance I really do not expect much to change. I hope you surprise me.

The New York Times estimated that it cost Michael Bloomberg $650 million to be Mayor of New York City for the last twelve years. They praised his generosity to aides and non-profit organizations and his ability to remake the city. What they left out is that the $650 million was actually a great business investment helping to vastly increase Bloomberg's fortune by promoting Bloomberg's global brand.

In September 2013 Forbes estimated Bloomberg's net worth at $31 billion, up $6 billion in one year and up $26 billion from $5 billion when he was first elected mayor in 2001. Bloomberg is now the seventh richest person in the United States and 13th richest in the world.

The Times also minimized the high cost citizens pay for the philanthropy of Bloomberg and the other billionaires. During the last decade their money has undermined democracy in the United States, promoted programs that escalate social inequality, and remade cities to provide for their comforts and needs. How much will social inequality expand and the Bloomberg brand be worth as Bloomberg Associates spreads his influence around the planet?

But Mayor Mike is gone. Billy Dee and Carmen will now being running the city and the schools.

Bill de Blasio talked up progressive rhetoric and the tale of two cities during his campaign but the reality is that he is a longtime main stream Democratic Party operative. De Blasio worked in the Dinkins administration in New York City, the Bill Clinton Administration in Washington DC, and Hillary Clinton's campaigns. His early appointments are mostly traditional Democrats. Laura Santucci, de Blasio's chief of staff, was an Obama aide and former acting executive director of the Democratic National Committee. Lis Smith, his communications director, is the current girlfriend of disgraced former Governor Elliot Spitzer. Alicia Glen from Goldman Sachs is Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development. Gladys Carrion, his Commissioner for Children's Services was originally appointed to public office during the Koch administration. She was commissioner of the Community Development Agency in the Dinkins administration and headed the state Office of Children and Family Services under Governors Spitzer, Patterson, and Cuomo. She has a long resume, but not one marked by great accomplishment and improvement for children or the poor. Corporation Counselor Zachary Carter was a Bill Clinton appointee as a federal district attorney and has ties to Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign and Cablevision.

Two of de Blasio's most important appointments are Bill Bratton as police commissioner and Carmen Fariña as School Chancellor. Bratton was formerly New York City police commissioner under Rudy Giuliani where he targeted squeegee men. He promises to pursue aggressive police tactics but claims to be reborn as an opponent of the controversial stop and frisk. We will see.

Public school advocates have especially high hopes for Carmen Fariña because she is one of our own, but I feel we will be disappointed. In announcing the appointment, de Blasio said "We cannot continue to be a city where educational opportunity is predetermined by ZIP code." He added that Fariña would help all children realize their potential.

But as far as I can see, Carmen Fariña has closer ties to the top 2% income bracket than the other 98% of the population and has always been willing to play political games. Fariña started as a teacher at PS 29 in tree-lined Brownstone Brooklyn located in the 11201 zip code where the population is 60% White and the median household income was over $91,000 in 2011. She was principal at PS 6 on Manhattan's Upper East Side where the zip code is 10028, the median household income in 2011 was $107,895, and the population is 83% White. Fariña worked at PS 6 when Anthony Alvarado was Superintendent of Community School District 2 and achieved supposedly miraculous school improvement by offering special programs that attracted Manhattan's wealthy and professional families to the district's schools. PS 6 became a very popular school with New York's economic elite and benefited from being a Columbia Teachers College Mentor School, having close ties to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and receiving Annenberg grants.

Carmen Fariña first worked with Bill de Blasio when she was District 15 Superintendent in Brownstone Brooklyn and he was on the school board. It remains unclear to me what Fariña has to offer the working class and poor Black and Latino students who have been left behind in the Bloomberg years. Fariña was also a Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning during the Bloomberg/Klein regime where her reputation as an advocate for children gave legitimacy to their programs.

I only met Carmen Fariña once, at a social studies teachers' conference in 2006. We exchanged a few words and I expressed disappointment that Fariña did not speak out more forcefully for good education. At the time Bloomberg and Klein were trying to force secondary school teachers to use an inappropriate elementary school lesson format called the Workshop Model. Fariña's office maintained that New York City had no standardized lesson plan format, but that did not stop the DOE from enforcing one. Soon after our encounter Fariña quietly retired as deputy chancellor, suspected of using her influence to help a colleague who lived in New Jersey illegally place his child at PS 29.

Will de Blasio/Fariña schools be substantially different from Bloomberg/Klein/Walcott schools? As Randy Newman sings in the opening to every show in the Monk detective series, "I may be wrong now, but I don't think so!"

Post-It Note: In my last Huffington Post of 2013 I offered to meet with Bill de Blasio and his school chancellor to discuss the future of New York City schools. I know he has been busy, but I am disappointed I did not from him. Anyway the offer still holds. Bill, please email me at catajs@hofstra.edu and we can set a time and place.

Alan Singer, Director, Secondary Education Social Studies
Department of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership
128 Hagedorn Hall / 119 Hofstra University / Hempstead, NY 11549
(P) 516-463-5853 (F) 516-463-6196

3 comments:

  1. I remember Carmen when she was a principal. I remember the nineties when principals in Manhattan district 2 were given the power to eliminate any teacher f or any reason. One reason was to eliminate the tops salaries and so the principals like Ms Farina threw the top veteran teachers to the dogs. Also, the district had bought into magic elixir materials, and top down mandates for lessons, like word walls, and materials replaced the successful lessons that experienced CLASSROOM PRACTITIONERS had used to successfully enable learning.

    The emphasis on EVALUATING TEACHING replaced the FOCUS OF THE PAST, which was ENABLING LEARNING. Thousands of educated, experienced, dedicated PRACTITIONERS of THE PROFESSION OF PEDAGY (yes not mere teachers) BIT THE DUST because the union looked the other way when it cAME TO ENFORCING THE CONTRACT. Hearings became a sham and investigations of bogus charges, became a sham. A real journalist needs to look into Marlene Malamay's role at Special Investigations. in order to see the hidden agenda that allowed principals to deprive teachers of DUE PROCESS.

    LET'S SEE IF CARMEN is ready to do the RIGHT THING by our students and do her role as ENABLER and FACILITATOR OF LEARNING. Maybe she has learned a thing or two from the destruction that Cortines, Crew, Klein, Fink and Company wrought.

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  2. D 15 is much more than Brownstones. It goes as far as Red Hook and Sunset Park where children live below the poverty line. There is also an large Hispanic community within D 15. The area around the district office did become gentrified when I was there, but many of those buildings were own my middle class, hard working Italians.

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  3. d15 is not just gentrified. It has different pockets of neighborhoods as well, that are below the poverty line or working middle class. I think that if any chancellor (with educational experience) was selected, such as Kathy Cashin, Josh Starr, it would be posed with resistance and criticism too.
    One thing that must be remembered, is that good administrators who get the job done, retain teachers, train and supervise teachers with clear direction and communication are not easy push overs. Majority of the good administrators are tough with a hard work ethic. However what makes a good administrator, a really GREAT administrator is by being FAIR and know each teacher's strengths and weaknesses.

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