PEP Talk

Fariña insists that flat school budgets still a 'win' for principals

Chancellor Carmen Fariña defended the city’s proposed education budget on Thursday night, arguing that principals will find their schools in good financial shape next year—even though that they won’t receive any extra money in their school budgets.

“It’s still a win,” Fariña said during a discussion with members of the Panel for Educational Policy, referring to next year’s additional $730 million in state education aid. That money has been allocated for pre-kindergarten, after-school programs, and arts education, among other programs.

Fariña was responding to PEP members who questioned whether the city was appropriately disbursing funds. Brooklyn representative Fred Baptiste said that while he appreciates the large spending increases for new programs, school budgets don’t give principals enough discretion.

“The chancellor is saying that there are pots of money that will help schools, but I’m still concerned,” Baptiste said after the meeting.

At a City Council hearing this week, Fariña and education officials noted that the citywide after-school, pre-K, and arts education spending would save principals money by replacing some costs previously borne by individual schools. On Thursday, Fariña added that principals would also be able to free up money by slashing outside professional development because of a contract agreement that would allow more time in the school day to do in-house teacher training. 

Fariña said she knew of some schools, particularly large high schools, that spent as much as $100,000 to outsource teacher training.

“That will not be needed anymore,” Fariña said, “because that amount will be embedded in the contract. So principals won’t need to pay for that.”

But finding that money might not be as simple as Fariña has suggested. One principal, who asked to remain anonymous because he wasn’t familiar with details of the budget, said that schools will likely still need to outsource teacher training in some cases, especially if staff needs to be trained to use a new classroom technology or adopt a new strategy to teach literacy.

Before the panel meeting, Fariña held an eight-minute question-and-answer session with reporters—the first time in nearly two months that Fariña took questions from the media on her own. The chancellor’s availability to reporters has become increasingly scarce after she faced criticism for making a few off-the-cuff remarks early in her tenure.

There, Fariña discussed the city’s new teacher evaluation system, though she admitted that she was still unfamiliar with some of the changes embedded in the proposed teachers union contract.

Fariña was asked about the decision to use teachers, rather than independent evaluators, to evaluate other teachers after they’ve been rated ineffective. Fariña initially said that the other teacher would be present for additional support, although the role of the evaluator in this specific case is to verify if a teacher’s ineffective rating, which could result in his or her termination, is valid.

“To be honest with you, I have to go back to that to make sure that I answered correctly,” Fariña said after reporters asked for clarification.

At the panel meeting, the city approved more than 200 contracts for pre-K providers, ranging in size from $95,000 to $3.7 million. The panel also approved a $280,000 contract to conduct background checks on pre-K providers.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.