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Carmen Farina, Chancellor of the New York City public schools, here describes her plans to improve the public schools in a district with 1.1 million students. She wrote this post in response to my request to outline her priorities. The last three Chancellors in Néw York City were non-educators. Many educators were delighted when Mayor Bill de Blasio selected an experienced educator to run the system. It is also welcome to hear the chancellor talk of collaboration, not competition.
“Toward a More Perfect School System
“September has always been my favorite month. I love it because it’s a time of possibilities, when every child can be reached and every parent can be engaged in their child’s education. This September has added meaning for me: it’s my 50th as a New York City public school educator. I’ve seen many changes over the past five decades and I am pleased that one thing hasn’t changed: our most important work still happens in the classroom, with teachers and administrators who are committed to doing whatever it takes to help all our of students realize their dreams.
“I am proud of the strides we have made over the past 20 months, restoring dignity and respect to the craft of teaching and school leadership. We continue to focus our attention on teacher recruitment and retention, providing mentoring and other supports so that our teachers feel valued and continue to grow professionally; every student deserves to learn from an excellent, engaged teacher. We have successfully moved from a system of competition to one of collaboration. Our educators have embraced the new spirit of cooperation that informs all of our work. This summer alone, thousands of teachers, principals, and superintendents attended professional development sessions on topics ranging from STEM and information technology to building a leadership pipeline and creating a college-going culture in schools. This year, we also created a new, streamlined school support structure under the direction of strong, experienced superintendents. The approach, which marries accountability and support with innovation, aims to provide all of our schools with the tools help they need to improve instruction, operations, and student services.
“Now, we are building on that progress. This fall, every four-year-old in the City will have access to free, full-day, high-quality pre-kindergarten. It’s extremely satisfying to know that our youngest learners will have an additional year of rich academic experiences. We are targeting extra supports to our Renewal Schools and we will have 130 new Community Schools, with wrap-around services that meet the whole needs of all of our students. As a former English Language Learner, I am also proud of the 40 new Dual Language Programs we are opening. A multi-lingual, multi-cultural education is crucial for our students, and our nation, to compete in the global economy.
“Finally, we have renewed our commitment to parent engagement, which we know plays a critical role in student achievement. With a new, strong leader overseeing family and community engagement, we will deepen the connection between schools and communities. The 40 minutes schools set aside each week to involve families in their schools will ensure that the entire community puts the interests of students front and center.
“We realize that challenges remain and we won’t rest until all of our students graduate from high school fully prepared to pursue the future they imagine for themselves. This September, I am excited to take up that challenge once more, and I am optimistic because I know that all of our brilliant educators share my mission to create a more perfect school system.”
Fariña is New York City Schools Chancellor.