Elia and Fariña compare visions for school improvement in the Bronx

Fifty of New York City’s lowest-performing schools face intense pressure from both the city and state to improve — and have received separate prescriptions for how to do so from each.

On Tuesday, one of these schools got tours from the two women representing the dueling turnaround plans to fix them. At the School of Diplomacy, Chancellor Carmen Fariña and New York State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia promised to collaborate in order to help these schools, and suggested that pressure remains to show results.

“The things that the chancellor has put in … make a huge difference in saying that we have the components that are important,” Elia said, “and now we have to watch and see what the outcomes are.”

The two separate plans are receivership and Renewal. Receivership, a state mandated program, gives schools either one or two years to improve or face takeover by an outside group. Renewal, the city’s program, provides $150 million in support for students and staff, while setting a strict three-year timetable for improvement.

The city and state have not always seen eye to eye on turning around struggling schools. De Blasio portrayed the Renewal program as an all-out war on failure in order to prove that the city is capable of crafting its own turnaround model.

Yet on Tuesday, Elia and Fariña agreed that successful improvements take teamwork.

“It needs the focus of all of the legislators and the Department of Education,” Elia said. Then, in a nod to the program that Fariña championed throughout the visit, she continued, “What you saw with the [community-based organization[ being embedded in the work in this school. That’s how we have to be supportive.”

Fariña looked for opportunities to tout the city’s Renewal program, and made sure to show Elia the community-based organization’s office.

“I’m thrilled to host the commissioner because I do think that New York City is really trying to lead the way in the area of Renewal schools,” she said.

The two also exchanged similar sentiments about shared building space. As Elia resumed her questioning in the hallway, she wondered why four non-charter middle schools share the same building. Three of the building’s four schools are in the city’s Renewal program.

“What a wonderful question,” Farina answered and smiled. “We’re working on this. To be continued. This is what we inherited.”