the new search

In search for new chancellor, Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to build on Fariña’s legacy

PHOTO: Monica Disare
Carmen Fariña announces her retirement at City Hall.

As the search for a new leader of the nation’s largest public school system begins, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that he has a specific type in mind: someone who is a lot like the 50-year veteran stepping down.

At a press conference, de Blasio said he has already begun a national search to replace Chancellor Carmen Fariña, who formally announced her retirement on Thursday. He emphasized that he is not looking for someone to shake things up but rather wants someone who will follow through on the course that he and Fariña set out. He also committed to hiring an educator, an important criteria for the mayor when he chose Fariña that set him apart from the previous administration.

“I’m thrilled with what Carmen’s achieved and I want to just deepen what she has started,” de Blasio said on Thursday. “Am I looking for something we don’t have? No.”

Fariña became chancellor after de Blasio was initially elected mayor in 2013. A longtime veteran in the New York City schools system, she emphasized sharing ideas among educators and infusing schools with resources.

It was long rumored that Fariña, 74, would step down upon de Blasio’s re-election. Her departure, which leaked out on Wednesday, opens up one of the largest jobs in education in the country, with responsibility for overseeing 1,800 schools and 1.1 million children, as well as a large workforce of administrators, teachers, support staff and department officials.

In his first term, de Blasio’s signature education accomplishment was universal prekindergarten, and he has signaled that he wants to double down on his existing policy initiatives. He hopes to expand pre-K to 3-year-olds and carry out his “Equity and Excellence” agenda, which includes offering computer science in every school and improving literacy.

De Blasio lavished praise on Fariña’s efforts to help him tackle big initiatives during his first term, calling her energy “superhuman” and her accomplishments “miraculous.”

“I asked a lot of Carmen Fariña, and she gave me even more,” de Blasio said.

The mayor said he plans to select a new chancellor in the next few months and that he hopes Fariña will continue in her post until then. He gave little information about the search process, saying only that it will be an internal, quiet decision.

For her part, Fariña emphasized many of the same goals that she first set out to accomplish. She focused on valuing collaboration among educators over competition and discussed elevating the teaching profession.

“The thing I’m proudest of is the fact that we have brought back dignity to teaching, joy to learning, and trust to the system,” Fariña said.

The chancellor also said she does not see retirement as “going off into the sunset,” but instead plans to be involved in education projects. In particular, she said she may help educators working at separate schools in the same building find more ways to share ideas. (After her first retirement in 2006, when she stepped down as deputy chancellor of teaching and learning, she continued to work as a consultant in city schools.)

However, she also made it clear that any education initiatives will be a side job and that her primary goal is to relax.

“The next stage of my life, I am not going to have a Blackberry to walk around with,” Fariña said. “I am going to go out to dinner and not have to respond to any emergencies. I’ve already started thinking about at least one vacation with each of my daughters.”

The race

As governor, Bill Schuette would consider ‘all options’ for struggling schools, including closings

Attorney General Bill Schuette is the GOP nominee for governor in Michigan.

Attorney General Bill Schuette is putting struggling Michigan schools on notice: Shape up or face the consequences if he becomes governor.

“You have to look at schools and see how we can make them improve and function better,” Schuette told reporters last week. “But if a school … isn’t doing the job, then we need to make sure that we help the parents and help the children … Education and outcomes. That ought to be our focus and nothing but that.”

Schuette, the state’s Republican nominee for governor, stopped short of saying that he would actively close schools but he has supported school closings in the past.

In 2016, he issued a legal opinion aimed at clearing a path for school closures in Detroit.

His campaign spokesman, John Sellek, added that Schuette “believes all options should be on the table because the main focus must be on achieving the best outcome for each child, as soon as possible.”

Schuette’s remarks came during an hour-long interview last week with reporters from the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, which includes Chalkbeat and five other nonprofit news organizations.

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, the former state senate minority leader, was one of six gubernatorial primary candidates who sat down for similar interviews in July. She has been invited to do another interview now that she’s the Democratic nominee but that has not yet been scheduled. Schuette did not do an interview during the primary.

During his sit-down last week, Schuette took questions on a range of subjects including crucial education issues.

On how Michigan funds schools: He called for a “review” of K-12 education spending, adding “we need to focus on outcomes.”

On whether schools serving children with higher needs should get more funds: He said “we have to look at how we can provide greater training for teachers and for those who have a challenge in terms of their student population.”

On school accountability: He called for an A to F grading system that would lead to improving schools getting extra funds. “I believe in incentives,” he said.

On whether Michigan should provide pre-K to all 4-year-olds: He said he’ll consider it.  “We ought to look at every idea and if it doesn’t work then try something else,” he said.

Watch the full interview with Schuette, including his comments on roads, infrastructure and other issues here. Or, scroll down to read an unedited transcript.

prizes

Tipton County school leader named Tennessee’s principal of the year

Vicki Shipley stands with Education Commissioner Candice McQueen after being named Tennessee's principal of the year. Shipley is principal of Munford Middle School in Tipton County in West Tennessee. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee Department of Education)

A Tipton County middle school administrator is Tennessee’s 2018-19 principal of the year.

Vicki Shipley is in her eighth year as principal of Munford Middle School, north of Memphis, and her 18th year in school administration.

She received the honor at a banquet Thursday evening in Nashville during the state education department’s annual LEAD conference for school leaders at all levels.

Praised for her collaborative approach and emphasis on professional learning, Shipley was one of nine finalists for the annual award and also was named the top principal for West Tennessee.

Other regional winners were:

  • Velena Newton, Richland Elementary, Giles County Schools, Middle Tennessee
  • Joseph Ely, Lincoln Heights Middle, Hamblen County Schools, East Tennessee

The awards were handed out as Tennessee increasingly emphasizes and invests in school leadership. When it comes to the impact of school-related factors on student learning, research shows that school leaders are second in importance only to teachers — but also can have a multiplier effect on the quality of teaching.


READ: How do you improve schools? Start by coaching principals, says new study


Tennessee also honored Maria Warren of Loudon County Schools as its supervisor of the year.

Warren supervises elementary schools in her Knoxville area district and oversees academic interventions for struggling students. She is a 27-year educator and was lauded for her organization of professional learning opportunities for local educators.

Other regional supervisor winners were:

  • Regina T. Merriman, Cannon County School District, Middle Tennessee
  • Angie M. Delloso, Lakeland School System, West Tennessee

Last month, Tennessee named first-grade teacher Melissa Miller of Franklin as its 2018-19 teacher of the year.

You can learn more about recognition of Tennessee’s top educators here.