Fariña's superintendent shake-up means eight new district leaders

Eight of the city’s community school districts have new superintendents after Chancellor Carmen Fariña required sitting leaders to re-apply for their jobs, officials said Tuesday.

The announcement is the culmination of a staffing overhaul for the city’s 32 districts, which oversee the city’s elementary and middle schools. The re-hiring process, which began in late August, is a step toward reshaping the roles of superintendents, who are responsible for evaluating principals and schools but saw their influence diminish under the previous mayoral administration.

Districts 2, 8, 11, 12, 17, 22, 26, and 28 got new superintendents this fall through the hiring process. Seven more superintendents were appointed this spring and retained this fall, including the leaders of Districts 6, 9, 27, and 31, two high-school superintendents, and the city’s one transfer-school superintendent.

“These decisions were about common sense,” Fariña said in a statement. “I want leaders at the helm who understand what it takes to ensure a supportive school community, and this is an exciting step forward to make sure our school system creates environments where all students and school staff will thrive.”

The shifts to the superintendent position, which Fariña announced in July, include a new requirement that the leaders have 10 years of experience and seemed designed to shake up the management ranks. (District 15’s Anita Skop and District 5’s Gale Reeves didn’t meet the new experience requirements but are keeping their jobs, officials said Tuesday.)

Fariña has also warned that the leaders will be held more accountable for some of her priorities, including parent engagement and arts offerings at the schools they oversee.

“Certainly they’re going to have additional powers,” Fariña said Monday of the superintendents. “This is going to be a chance to get it right and make sure that schools have what they need.”

In addition to being a principal’s boss, superintendents were historically tasked with providing suggestions about who should be hired and what curriculums schools should use. Under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, superintendents were stripped of their influence over school-level decisions, and principals now contract with support networks that provide help with school budgets, curriculum and staffing — a system designed to increase efficiency and give principals more freedom.

But critics have said the arrangement has made for a scattered accountability system and that the move away from geographically-organized districts has weakened community ties, and Fariña has made no secret of her dissatisfaction with the status quo.

The turnover is also another way that Fariña has empowered people familiar with some of her key priorities, like community schools and dual-language programs.

The new superintendent in District 6 in upper Manhattan, Manuel Ramirez, was previously principal of the Comprehensive Model School Project M.S. 327, a school that the de Blasio administration has touted as model for schools that share resources with the surrounding community. The new District 9 superintendent, Leticia Rodriguez Rosario, is a former principal of P.S./I.S. 218 Rafael Hernandez Dual Language Magnet School.