Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Farina and Cashin, Part 2: MOREistas Chime in With Praise for Both

There were mostly positive reactions to both candidates from MORE members on our post, Farina vs. Cashin: Battle of Philosophies, Part 1.

Given that my progressive education preferences lead me to favor Farina, I may be unfair to Cashin who 20 years ago I had a personal problem with due to her harassment of a teacher friend when she was principal at PS 193K.

So this came in from a respected colleague in ICE and MORE.
With all her faults, class sizes at PS xxx, in Brownsville, were always kept low during the Cashin years. I can presume that the same was true for other schools in the neighborhood. Cashin understood the inter-relation of class size, teachability and management. Like it or not, she also understood the relation of Brownsville education to gentrification and test scores. District and later Region stability depended on a tight community school district and network relation to yearly improving test scores, which kept Bloomberg from justifying a Chicago destruction operation and complete charterization there. Cashin retired when she saw that her network could no longer maintain this autonomy.

The DOE Teachers College ELA curriculum was minimized in content, while the process was tokenized as much as needed to front the mandate.
Farina's TC approach does not work well with high needs children: children of poverty, of crime, of ELLs and kids with special ed issues. It is too student-directed for kids whose lives are socially and emotionally topsy turvy and need so much emotional and social support. These kids can give you a look, but their learning requires a lot of structured, scaffolded, and developmentally appropriate repetition and review, especially in the early years.

By the way Cashin also introduced E.D. Hirsh's Core Knowledge social studies curriculum in her network (but not the reading program). She saw it in action in one R. 5, D. 27 school in Black middle class Queens. She was right! Kids of color loved it in every school in district 23 I visited. Most kids loved learning about different world cultures and their histories, but especially children of color. This legitimates and also includes their own diversity and cultures. This curriculum also helped cool the pits of the DOE, which also liked it.

Klein ran a pilot in Staten Island. Unfortunately, the teachers in the upper grades never got the PD to continue it. The program died with Cashin's retirement when the DOE and Tweed superintendents and principals came in for the first time. Cashin never allowed Tweed to invade her schools. Yeah, top-down can have its very positive as well as disgustingly negative aspects. None of us is perfect.

If you can take the time, watch the videos with Prof. James Cummins, a Toronto ed research analyst. He points out correctly, I feel, that the public ed system never failed the middle class since the 30's, only communities of poverty, immigrant, ELL and special ed. He avoids pointing out that this is after our eastern and southern European immigrant forebears had been allowed work their way into whiteness. He also avoids pointing out that high needs kids today are almost always children of color. He leaves the social and economic analysis to others. Nevertheless, these children never have gotten a fully fair shake. No matter what reforms came down the pike, these students were economically and pedagogically marginalized. However, there is also another big omission here: the successful education of the fortunate Black and Latino middle class that benefited from the culturally relevant pedagogy of the civil rights-inspired Pre-K through college education of the 70's and 80's. Nevertheless, the numerous public school reforms have been so short lived and scripted that teachers, including teachers of color have never been allowed to adapt them to fit the paticular needs of most of their high needs students. The same will be true of the common core standards if the current kind of implementation continues.

As a Canadian white man, he is big proponent of the African-American school of cultural relevant pedegogy and understands exactly what it is. It worked to create the middle class of color today, and it can work again if we allow it to. Unfortunately, this has been unjustly prevented by the educrats for too large a portion of our population since the 1930's. The economic "advantage" should be obvious in the current observer!
Farina faves:
She is a very knowledgeable educator who believes the best way to improve schools, and the best kind of ps, is collaboration between admins, teachers, community. She has said there is no better way for eds to get support than for them to support each other, nothing they can learn that can't be learned from each other. That foundational vision distinguishes her from Cashin and any other candidate out there. She is a very thoughtful educator. She is practical and no nonsense. But compassionate and has the absolute best of intentions.
No Chancellor is going to be perfect, all will have their flaws, and certainly BDB isn't going to choose a "radical" (whatever that means).

Carmen is foremost an educator, a thoughtful, knowledgeable educator with experience at every level. Her foundation is solid.

Having her at the helm will not create magical changes (and let us not forget the state and national control factors that cannot be changed and politically, for those in positions such as this one, have to be appeased)... But there would be significant changes that are teacher friendly and most importantly deeply rooted in what benefits children and builds strong schools.

She understands something that I think drives a positive vision for schools, which is that they are collaborative, humane places, where principal and teacher support and opportunities to grow and learn from each other are the best way to improve, innovate, and evaluate.

We'll see what happens, but on a personal leveI, I would be very happy with her appointment.

From a retired MOREista:
Great Carmen Farina Experience:

About 9 years ago, in December, principal announced that he was going to interclass the majority of my kindergarten students. The plan was to replace those children with double service ESL students. I have an ESL license, and he wanted to use that to his advantage.

Meeting was held with parents. Mothers cried in the hallway, to no avail. The principal was adament.

A mother from Holland (unusual in Elmhurst, Queens) emailed Carmen Farina. Within 30 minutes of the mother's email, the plan was off. Carmen Farina reached out to the principal and told him that he could forget his interclassing,

Don't know what else he was told, but I am left with respect for Carmen Farina. Her actions speak very loudly for integrity, and caring.
One Farina knock:

I worked with Carmen when at Teachers Network. She's a little woman with a strong ego. We used to have our teacher fair at her school PS6 on the Tony upper east side of Manhattan when she was principal. I would coordinate the event and introduce her to everyone.

I don't recall a collaborative style, but an intimidated staff. When I first booked the teacher fair she told me over the phone no more sessions on “how to break a principal”! I was astonished. We never had such a session (although I was intrigued). I may be mistaken, but I think she’s the brainchild of learning boards, print rich, workshop model for all lessons (the bane of our existence in high schools). If that’s her hallmark, deBlasio is proving a disappointment already.
And a response:
I think your experience w Carmen reflects her VERY direct, short method of communication. She is "no-nonsense" but she does listen and, she does know what the hell she is talking about, unlike anyone we have worked under in the last 12 years.

Maybe more later.


  1. I am saddened that no one at MORE bothered to look at just how progressive Starr is. His is the only district that doesn't use test scores to evaluate teachers. I've known Carmen from her days as a staff developer. She was kind and supportive. But when she became principal, things changed. There was a citywide meeting at her school and one of the teachers from my school reported a sign she put on a classroom door saying it was not to be entered. She found out Carmen didn't like that teacher. I heard Carmen speak at an event for staff developers at the WTC not long before the attack. I was to say the least surprised by her comments about teachers.

    Carmen and Cashin are the old guard. We need someone who is willing to help deBlasio stand up to RTTT. Starr will do that because he already has.

  2. I agree. It was Farina that brought us the forced progressivism known as the workshop model that led to many protests in the early Klein years. Check out the stuff from 2005 when she was deputy chancellor. Not looking forward to her reign. MORE people praising this pick is hard to understand. It seems, as long as it is a tyrant who follows the progressive philosophy, some people are ok with it.


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