Changes to the network structure are coming, Chancellor Carmen Fariña repeated in her latest message to principals—but don’t expect them just yet.
“You and your staff have relied on our networks to help your schools and we are working on improving the existing system,” she wrote in her weekly note. “Until then, the system will remain in place so that there will be minimal interruption—and more time to fine-tune the way we deliver instructional and operational support for our schools.”
Fariña has said for months that she will amend the current structure for school support, which relies on multi-borough networks that principals choose and local district superintendents who evaluate principals. But she’s yet to offer a new vision, and some principals have wondered whether a new structure would be announced by the end of the school year.
The answer seems to be no. Principals Weekly also includes instructions for schools looking to switch networks for next year, something they can choose to do by mid-May.
In a list of goals, Fariña also included improving student achievement and graduation rates—specifics that she has spoken less about than teacher support and parent engagement in her first 100 days on the job.
Fariña’s complete note is below:
Thursday will mark my 100th day as Schools Chancellor. I’m incredibly proud of how much we have accomplished in such a short period of time, and I’ll be out visiting schools to celebrate this milestone.
I started the week at I.S. 88 in Park Slope, where some 40 principals and school staff joined me to announce the launch of our Learning Partners Program, a new initiative to bring schools together to share strong practices that directly affect children in their classrooms. You are the major force for change in our schools and you will be more effective leaders if you are able to share ideas with and learn from your peers. The program will develop and promote inter-school collaborative learning between sets of host and partner schools, across all five boroughs and all grade levels, with a special emphasis on middle schools. We hope that some partner schools will eventually become host schools, multiplying the scale of our learning environments citywide. For more information about the application process, please see the announcement below.
Another achievement we can celebrate, and one of which I am particularly proud, is the City’s ability to move toward truly universal full-day pre-kindergarten starting with 53,000 children who will have access to high quality full-day pre-k in September. This program will surely be a game changer for our students, as we know that pre-k is critical to their long-term success. With our funding in place, the mayor has begun a major media and community organizing push urging New Yorkers to sign their children up for pre-k. Please remind parents that the deadline to apply is April 23. By the start of the 2015-16 school year, we will be on track to provide high quality pre-k programs to 73,250 students. I am equally excited about expanding our after-school programs—having adolescents involved in an engaging, productive after-school program is an important part of their success. For more information about the after-school program application process, please see the announcement below.
It’s important to remember that in order for these programs to flourish, schools must have a support system that is a guiding force for success. You and your staff have relied on our networks to help your schools and we are working on improving the existing system. Until then, the system will remain in place so that there will be minimal interruption—and more time to fine-tune the way we deliver instructional and operational support for our schools.
While our achievements are moving the Department of Education in the right direction, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. As you know, I brought in Josh Wallack as my Chief Strategy Officer specifically to implement my vision, which is encapsulated in the four core pillars that have been the foundation of my career, and which I would like to share with you today:
First, you and your school’s leadership and teaching staff need to be respected. We will honor each and every one of you by providing you with the support and training needed to hone your crafts.
Second, we must bolster student achievement. The Common Core will help us raise graduation rates and better prepare students for higher education, but kids also need enriching, experiential learning. It takes life lessons and academics in order to succeed.
Third, we can achieve nothing if we fail to engage families. Schools are second homes for our children and a successful school is one that encourages a relationship with its students and families.
Lastly, we must engage more community partners. I look forward to the day when all schools are working with community-based organizations and non-profits to implement strategies that improve student outcomes.
These 100 days are just the beginning. With pre-k underway and school partnerships in the works, I look forward to more bold initiatives that put our students in a better place to succeed. Thank you for all the work you have done; let’s get ready to face the challenges of the next 100 days, and beyond.