When not in schools, Fariña spent first months with education's power brokers

Michael Mulgrew’s cozy relationship with Chancellor Carmen Fariña was forged at the dinner table, not the negotiating table.

Before contract talks heated up in April, Fariña and the United Federation of Teachers president were monthly dining partners, her meeting schedule shows. The pair met in person at least four times at high-end restaurants and a greasy-spoon diner, and chatted on the phone several more times between January and April.

The schedule offers a detailed view of Fariña’s first months as head of the nation’s largest school system. They show that when she wasn’t visiting schools, Fariña met with Stanford researcher Linda Darling-Hammond, billionaire philanthropist George Soros, along with a host of advocates, executives, elected officials, and union representatives.

The schedule also offers a window into the political nature of Farina’s job responsibilities and a peek into Fariña’s talent search. In a two-day sprint in early January, Fariña met with three principals, two of whom would soon leave their schools to join the administration, and a then-New Jersey superintendent.

Many days were jam-packed with meetings, and few people got multiple time slots in her first few months. Union leaders, including Ernest Logan and Mark Canizzaro of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, the city’s principals union, were exceptions, reflecting their positive relationship and a need to set the stage for contract negotiations.

The city announced a new contract for over 100,000 teachers and school staff in a celebratory May press conference, after which critics said the deal did not include enough union concessions.

In an interview, Mulgrew said his one-on-one meetings with Fariña preceding the agreement didn’t include discussions of labor issues in the contract. Rather, he said they talked about big ideas, like how the union and the city could work together.

“It was just very refreshing,” said Mulgrew, who said he stopped monthly coffee dates with de Blasio’s predecessor Michael Bloomberg with eight months left in his mayoral term.

Mulgrew and Fariña’s first meeting took place in mid-January at The Palm, a midtown steakhouse. The next month, it was breakfast at the Millennium Hilton around the corner from Mulgrew’s offices. Their last two dates were meetings at the Gee Whiz Diner on Fariña’s turf, just a few blocks from where she works at Tweed Courthouse.

Mulgrew said he needed no such arrangement with de Blasio because their communication is much better than it was with Bloomberg, who sparred publicly with the union on a host of education issues in his final years in office.

“I pick up the phone and talk to him. He picks up the phone and talk to me,” Mulgrew said of de Blasio. (The Department of Education declined to comment on Fariña’s meetings.)

Fariña’s first several meetings on the job were with top Department of Education brass and de Blasio aides. Within a week, she was branching out, meeting with InsideSchools’ founding editor to talk middle schools and with longtime organizer: Megan Hester of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform.

Later that month, Fariña met with more outsiders. On Jan. 17, she met with Soros, New York City Charter School Center CEO James Merriman, and Lucy Calkins, founding director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, the organization that Fariña consulted for before being appointed chancellor.

Other than Soros, Fariña met often with people in the business and philanthropy communities, including officials at the Wallace Foundation, which is funding a training program for superintendents, and the Robin Hood Foundation, a major charter school funder, and the Maverick Capital Foundation. She also frequently saw board members and officials from the department’s private fundraising arm, the Fund for Public Schools.

Kathryn Wylde, head of the Partnership for New York, a business association, said one of her meetings with Fariña was to discuss how her members could support Fariña’s policy agenda. One result was that the Partnership placed a part-time liaison at the Department of Education tasked with establishing more partnerships between companies and career and technical high schools, like the one that exists between IBM and the Pathways to Early College High School in Crown Heights.

“Education is the top philanthropic priority of most corporations, but when we look at the actually being accomplished, it’s hard to see the impact,” Wylde said. “We feel that if we understand her agenda, we can mobilize employers in a more coordinated way.”

Another of Fariña’s first tasks was picking a leadership team. Two principals she met with early on, Lisa Fuentes of P.S. 24 and Phil Weinberg of the High School of Telecommunications, eventually left their schools to join Fariña. It’s unclear if the third principal, M.S. 223′s Ramon Gonzalez, or the the New Jersey superintendent, Brian Osborne, a former colleague of Fariña’s when she was deputy chancellor, were also on her shortlist. (A spokesperson for Fariña did not immediately respond to questions seeking clarification.)

Osborne, who now oversees the New Rochelle school district, said that his dinner with Fariña was “collegial” and simply an effort to “stay in touch.”

Click here for a complete version Fariña’s schedule that the department provided. A partial list is below:


Jan. 6: Irma Zardoya, president and CEO of the New York City Leadership Academy
Jan. 8: Megan Hester, Annenberg Institute for School Reform
Jan. 9: Clara Hemphill, InsideSchools
Jan. 9: Harold Levy, former New York City chancellor
Jan. 10: Phil Weinberg and Brian Osborne
Jan. 11: Christina Fuentes
Jan. 11: Ramon Gonzalez
Jan. 13: Phone call with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch
Jan. 22: Sharon Dunn and Louise Mirrer, New York Historical Society
Jan. 23: Rashid Davis, principal of Pathways in Technology Early College High School.
Jan. 23: Will Miller, president of Wallace Foundation
Jan. 24: Irma Zardoya
Jan. 27: Tisch and John King, State Education Commissioner
Jan. 28: Catherine Nolan, State Assembly’s Education Committee Chair
Jan. 28: Joann Millman, State Assembly Member
Jan. 29: Kenyatte Reid, principal of Eagle Academy II
Jan. 29: Fariña promotes Weinberg to top teaching and learning post
Feb. 5: Todd Penner, Susan and Michael Dell Foundation
Feb. 5: Claire Sylvan, executive director of International Schools Network
Feb. 5: Norm Fruchter, Annenberg Institute of School Reform and Panel for Educational Policy member, Dr. Dorothy Siegel
Feb. 6: Maggie Siena, principal of the Peck Slip School
Feb. 10: New Dorp High School Principal Deirdre DeAngelis D’Alessio, Ramon Gonzalez, Kenyatte Reid, Christina Fuentes, Phil Weinberg
Feb. 12: Richard Kahan, founder and CEO of Urban Assembly
Feb. 13: De Blasio and Fariña defend decisions to keep schools open during snow storm.
Feb. 14: Rudy Crew, former chancellor
Feb. 18: Steve Strongin, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and board member of Fund for Public Schools
Feb. 20: Stan Litow, former deputy chancellor and president of IBM’s Foundation
Feb. 20: Paulette LoMonaco, executive director of Good Shepherd Services
Feb. 21: Pedro Noguera, New York University
Feb. 22: Meets with charter school leaders
Feb. 24: Lottie Almonte, Principal of Murry Bergtraum High School (site of Success co-location)
Feb. 24: Meets with elected officials
Feb. 25: Moskowitz launches Albany campaign
Feb. 26: Letitia James, public advocate
Feb. 27: Call with elected officials
Feb. 27: De Blasio cancels Success co-locations
Feb. 27: Charlotte Frank, McGraw-HIll
March 6: Scott Stringer, New York City comptroller
March 11: Breakfast with Michael Mulgrew
March 13: Seymour Fliegel, Center for Education Innovation-Public Education Association
March 14: Emary Aronson and David Saltzman, Robin Hood Foundation
March 14: Meeting with Portfolio team
March 17: Naomi Smith, principal of Central Park East II, whose expansion the city nixed.
March 17: Bob Hughes, President of New Visions for Public Schools
March 18: Irma Zardoya, New York City Leadership Academy
March 21; Nancy Zimpher, SUNY Chancellor
March 21: Catherine Nolan
March 21: Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford University
March 22: Rudy Crew
April 1: English Language Learners meeting
April 1: Iris Blanc, director of Virtual Enterprises International, and Pier Duncan
April 3: Rafael Román Meléndez, Secretary of Education for Puerto Rico
April 3: Meeting with Qatar Foundation International
April 4: Funder briefing at Microsoft’s offices
April 4: Gifted & Talented admissions show wide inequities persist
April 5: Meeting with families of students with disabilities
April 6: NYSUT ousts president with support from UFT
April 7: Fariña launches Learning Partners Program
April 7: City wins federal funding for two P-TECH high schools
April 7: John King and Merryl Tisch
April 8: Tensions flare, then subside between de Blasio and Success charters
April 8: Melissa Mark-Viverito, speaker of the City Council
April 8: Allison Sheehan, school support network leader
April 9: City announces changes to grade promotion policies
April 9: Kathryn Wylde and Katy Belot, Partnership for New York
April 10: Manhattan principals protest state reading tests
April 10: Erica Hamilton, director of City Year-New York City
April 10: Melinda Katz, Queens Borough President
April 11: Michael Casserly, Executive Director of Council of Great City Schools
April 11: Major restructuring under way at NYC DOE
April 12: 100 Day Speech. Says she has been to “almost 30 schools
April 16: Hazel Dukes, NAACP-NY
April 17: Clara Hemphill
April 17: Seymour Fliegel
April 21: Jaime Aquino, New Teacher Center, former Deputy Chancellor of NYC DOE