Carmen’s tip to schools in an all-choice district: Sell yourselves to parents

Fariña made the comment while speaking to parents in Manhattan’s District 1, where tensions with the Department of Education over the district’s choice-based school enrollment policy for younger grades have persisted for years. District leaders have said the current policy has increased segregation over the last decade and have sought to amend the admissions policy to achieve more diverse schools, but the department has stood in its way, citing concerns that their preferences violated federal education laws.

Parents again presented their case on Wednesday, this time to Fariña, who attended a town hall event at P.S. 20 on the Lower East Side. Fariña said diversity was an “issue that means a lot to me,” but stopped short of making any commitment to adjusting enrollment rules.

For now, schools have to adapt to what parents want — she noted dual-language and technology programs were hot now — and then have to market themselves, she said.

“It’s a competition against each other. And many of the schools have the same message. So how do you have a different message so that you’re doing something a little bit different?” Fariña said.

She added, “I’m just saying that in public education, like everything else, you need a hook. What’s the hook that people are looking for?”