Children’s Aid Society CEO Richard Buery will serve as deputy mayor for strategic policy initiatives, a new position in which he will direct the city’s pre-kindergarten expansion, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.
Buery will also lead the effort to create 100 new community schools, a de Blasio campaign pledge that has received less attention than pre-K in the mayor’s first month on the job.
The appointment adds even more high-level manpower to the mayor’s plan to expand full-day pre-K, which will involve clearing a significant set of logistical hurdles before schools open this fall. It also continues de Blasio’s pattern of tying his education initiatives closely to City Hall, rather than just the Department of Education.
De Blasio has praised Buery, who has served as the head of Children’s Aid since 2009, and mentioned the Children’s Aid Society model in his campaign platform. Buery was also a member of de Blasio’s transition team.
“He gets the big picture and will make sure that agencies are working together to achieve our biggest priorities,” de Blasio said in a statement.
During his tenure, Mayor Michael Bloomberg had faced criticism for not taking advantage of the city’s control of the school system to better integrate its other services into schools. At today’s announcement, de Blasio emphasized the need for those connections to make community schools, and the pre-K expansion, work citywide.
“So many of the things that we aim to do will change the lives of the people of the city for the better, but they’re not easy to do,” he said. “And, in fact, they don’t fall within the traditional boundaries of government agencies in many cases.”
Children’s Aid Society also operates a charter school in the South Bronx, which opened in 2012. De Blasio has sharply criticized charter schools, but said he wants to see the community schools model expand—ideas that Children’s Aid has combined, providing after-school programs, social services, and health care at Children’s Aid Community Prep Charter.
The school, which had an extended co-location arrangement approved last October, was dropped from a lawsuit filed to halt co-locations because there was no community opposition to the plan, according to Arthur Schwartz, the lawyer who filed the suit. (The nonprofit organization is planning to construct its own building for the school.)
Buery has made it clear that he wants to work with the mayor’s education policies, and was one of the charter leaders developing a framework for charter schools to work with de Blasio and schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
Children’s Aid Society also runs after-school programs in 21 schools and at eight community centers. One year ago, Buery was criticizing the Mayor Michael Bloomberg after he released a preliminary budget cutting similar programs.
“Once again, the mayor’s proposed cuts to after-school and early childhood programs will continue a disappointing trend of shrinking programs for the children in our city who need them most,” he said then.
Now, he’ll be spearheading efforts to expand those programs. “It’s been my mission in life to help families work their way up the economic ladder,” Buery said today. “No agency, no community group can do that alone.”
Fariña was not at the announcement, though the mayor said that she and Buery would have “a close working relationship.”
“Carmen is very enthusiastic and focused on our pre-K and after-school plan, but obviously she has the largest school system in the country to run, and has so many fronts to work on,” de Blasio said. “So she embraces the notion of having a single focused leader for the pre-K and after-school effort out of City Hall.”