Inside baseball

Santiago Taveras, public face of DOE, leaving for private sector

The city’s first-ever community engagement czar is the latest in a string of high-level departures from the Department of Education since the departure of Chancellor Joel Klein.

Santiago Taveras, deputy chancellor for community engagement, is leaving the department to become a vice president at Cambridge Education, the consulting firm that originally conducted quality reviews in city schools. Taveras is the third member of the chancellor’s leadership team to resign since Cathie Black replaced Klein in November.

Taveras, who worked for the city schools for 22 years, was deputy chancellor for teaching and learning from May 2009 until April 2010, when the DOE eliminated its teaching and learning division. He then became the city’s first community engagement chief, managing the way the department explained proposals for policy changes, such as school closures, to the public. In recent months, he had become the voice of the department at public meetings, sometimes staying long after other officials to take questions and speak with parents and school leaders.

A former principal, Taveras was one of the aides Eric Nadelstern name-checked as someone trained to pick up the slack after the former chief schools officer resigned in January. In addition to Nadelstern, whose position was eliminated after he left, the department also replaced finance director Photeine Anagnastopoulos, who quit the day after Klein announced his departure. The department is looking for a replacement for Taveras, according to the city’s press release.

Here’s the city’s press release:

CHANCELLOR BLACK ANNOUNCES DEPARTURE OF DEPUTY CHANCELLOR SANTIAGO TAVERAS

Schools Chancellor Cathie Black today announced the departure of Santiago Taveras, Deputy Chancellor for Community Engagement, after nearly 22 years working on behalf of New York City’s public school children. Prior to serving as Deputy Chancellor for Community Engagement, Mr. Taveras oversaw the Division of Teaching and Learning, and served as the Senior Supervising Superintendent of all boroughs. He also developed and implemented the Quality Review process for the City’s schools, which provides a detailed assessment of a school’s learning environment and culture.

“Over his years at the Department, Santi has worked passionately to foster more honest and productive conversations between school communities and education stakeholders, and to confront some of our most challenging issues, like the achievement gap,” Chancellor Cathie Black said. “As a former Principal and Superintendent, he always made sure the voices of our school leaders were represented in policy debates. We will miss his kindness and dedication, and wish him all the best in his new position.”

Mr. Taveras is leaving the Department to become Vice President for District Reform at Cambridge Education, a global education business that partners with schools in 22 states and in education systems in over 40 countries around the world.

“After nearly 22 years of service for New York City public schools, I am proud of the work I have led to better the lives of thousands of children,” Deputy Chancellor Taveras said. “Whether it was in my early days teaching or as Founding Principal at both Banana Kelly High School and Urban Assembly Academy for Careers in Sports, my focus has always been developing strategic community partnerships and teams of committed educators to positively affect student outcomes and help close the achievement gap. There is so much progress that we can make when educators are sharing instructional best practices, and I look forward to scaling that work in school districts nationwide in my new role at Cambridge Education. I hope our paths will cross again in our continued fight to put children first.”

Mr. Taveras began his career as a teacher at Central Park East I Elementary School and Central Park East Secondary School. In his role as Local Instructional Superintendent in Region 9, he supported and supervised schools and coordinated summer school for all high schools in the region.

Mr. Taveras is a proud product of New York City’s public school system. He was born and raised in the South Bronx, and graduated from John F. Kennedy High School before going on to receive his Bachelor of Science and Masters Degree in Education from The City College of New York.

A search for Mr. Taveras’ replacement is already underway.

weekend update

How the education world is reacting to racist violence in Charlottesville — and to Trump’s muted response

PHOTO: Andrew Dallos/Flickr
A rally against hate in Tarrytown, New York, responds to the violence in Charlottesville.

For educators across the country, this weekend’s eruption of racism and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, offered yet another painful opportunity to communicate their values to families, colleagues, and community members.

Many decried the white supremacists who convened in the college town and clashed with protesters who had come to oppose their message. Some used social media to outline ideas about how to turn the distressing news into a teaching moment.

And others took issue with President Donald Trump’s statement criticizing violence “on many sides,” largely interpreted as an unwillingness to condemn white supremacists.

One leading education official, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, followed Trump’s approach, criticizing what happened but not placing blame on anyone in particular:

DeVos’s two most recent predecessors were unequivocal, both about what unfolded in Charlottesville and whom to blame:

Leaders of the nation’s two largest teachers unions responded directly to Trump:

The American Federation of Teachers, Weingarten’s union, is supporting vigils across the country Sunday night organized by chapters of Indivisible, a coalition that emerged to resist the Trump administration. The union also promoted resources from Share My Lesson, its lesson-plan site, that deal with civil rights and related issues.

“As educators, we will continue to fulfill our responsibility to make sure our students feel safe and protected and valued for who they are,” Weingarten said in a statement with other AFT officials.

Local education officials took stands as well, often emotionally. Here’s what the superintendent in Memphis, which is engaged in the same debate about whether Confederate memorials should continue to stand that drew white supremacists to Charlottesville, said on Twitter:

Teachers in Hopson’s district return for the second week of classes on Monday. They’ve helped students process difficult moments before, such as a spate of police killings of black men in 2016; here’s advice they shared then and advice that teachers across the country offered up.

We want to hear from educators who are tackling this tough moment in their classrooms. Share your experiences and ideas here or in the form below. 

Betsy DeVos

‘Underperformer,’ ‘bully,’ and a ‘mermaid with legs’: NYMag story slams Betsy DeVos

PHOTO: New York Magazine
A drawing of DeVos commissioned by an 8-year-old starts the New York Magazine article.

A new article detailing Betsy DeVos’s first six months as U.S. education secretary concludes that she’s “a mermaid with legs: clumsy, conspicuous, and unable to move forward.”

That’s just one of several brutal critiques of DeVos’s leadership and effectiveness in the New York Magazine story, by Lisa Miller, who has previously covered efforts to overhaul high schools, New York City’s pre-kindergarten push, and the apocalypse. Here are some highlights:

  • Bipartisan befuddlement: The story summarizes the left’s well known opposition to DeVos’s school choice agenda. But her political allies also say she’s making unnecessary mistakes: “Most mystifying to those invested in her success is why DeVos hasn’t found herself some better help.”
  • A friend’s defense: DeVos is “muzzled” by the Trump administration, said her friend and frequent defender Kevin Chavous, a school choice activist.
  • The department reacts: “More often than not press statements are being written by career staff,” a spokesperson told Miller, rejecting claims that politics are trumping policy concerns.
  • D.C. colleagues speak: “When you talk to her, it’s a blank stare,” said Charles Doolittle, who quit the Department of Education in June. A current education department employee says: “It’s not clear that the secretary is making decisions or really capable of understanding the elements of a good decision.”
  • Kids critique: The magazine commissioned six portraits of DeVos drawn by grade-schoolers.
  • Special Olympics flip-flop: DeVos started out saying she was proud to partner with the athletics competition for people with disabilities — and quickly turned to defending a budget that cuts the program’s funding.
  • In conclusion: DeVos is an underperformer,” a “bully” and “ineffective,” Miller found based on her reporting.

Updated (July 31, 2017): A U.S. Education Department spokesperson responded to our request for comment, calling the New York Magazine story “nothing more than a hit piece.” Said Liz Hill: “The magazine clearly displayed its agenda by writing a story based on largely disputed claims and then leaving out of the article the many voices of those who are excited by the Secretary’s leadership and determination to improve education in America.”