welcome party

Ideological foes express cautious optimism about NYC’s incoming schools chief, Alberto Carvalho

PHOTO: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Debbie Smoot

Update: Carvalho turned down the job in dramatic fashion on Thursday. More here

Groups on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum reacted with cautious optimism Wednesday to news that Alberto Carvalho will be New York City’s next schools chief.

Top teachers union officials and charter-school advocates — two camps that often clash — said they look forward to working with Carvalho, the longtime superintendent of the Miami-Dade County school system, who city officials said will succeed Chancellor Carmen Fariña. Their positive reactions may partly reflect Carvalho’s reputation as a middle-of-the-road schools chief.

A number of his policies seem to fit Mayor Bill de Blasio’s union-friendly agenda, including an attempt to turn around struggling schools by offering academic and discipline support and creating more Advanced Placement classes. But he is also known for expanding the number of magnet schools, an endorsement of school choice that charter advocates may find encouraging.

The full statements are below, in the order they arrived. We’ll update this post as more come in.

StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis

“On behalf of our more than 13,000 parent members, we welcome the new Chancellor and hope that Alberto Carvalho will be the independent leader that public school children desperately need. We extend our best wishes for his success and we look forward to working together to expand school choice and improve teacher effectiveness. After four years and half a billion dollars on a failed school turnaround program, NYC students need a leader who will work with urgency to give them the quality of schools they deserve.”

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew

“Chancellor Fariña’s leadership has led to important progress for our students.  We look forward to working with Mr. Carvalho – who has had a collaborative relationship with his district’s teaching staff  — to build on that progress, to further streamline and improve management, and to focus the system on initiatives that help our kids succeed.”

Charter School Center CEO James Merriman

“Alberto Carvalho knows first hand the transformative power of a great education. We look forward to working with him to give every New York City student the future they deserve by growing our successful charter-district partnerships and making it easier for families to find a high quality public school of their choice.

“Over the last four years, charter and district schools have been able to work together more productively to share ideas and improve teaching and learning across schools. We want to thank Chancellor Farina for being a strong partner in that effort and are excited to continue that work with Mr. Carvalho.”

Success Academy Charter Schools CEO Eva Moskowitz

“Alberto M. Carvalho is a nationally-recognized expert on education transformation whose leadership drove Miami-Dade County Public Schools to unprecedented increases in student achievement and graduation rates. He’s not only the kind of top-tier educator we had hoped New York City could attract, he’s specifically one of the candidates I suggested to the Mayor in December. Congratulations to Mayor de Blasio and all the families in New York City schools on this excellent hire.”

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten

“An education pipeline has been forged between Miami and New York City over many decades. Joe Fernandez went from Dade to New York. Rudy Crew went from New York to Miami. And now there’s Alberto Carvalho moving from Miami to New York. We’ve worked closely with all of them.

“The difference now is how hostile Tallahassee has become to educators and public education. State lawmakers and Republican governors have layered obstacle upon obstacle in front of public schools and taken punitive measures against educators and kids. H.B. 7069—last year’s bill to allow charters to take money from public schools regardless of school board decision-making—and this year’s bills to arm teachers with weapons, while stripping them of their unions, are but two examples. Again and again, lawmakers have put their thumb on the scale to privatize and defund public schools while disrespecting educators and overtesting students.

“Superintendent Carvalho has fought this assault on public education as a lead litigant against the charter theft bill. Even under this top-down, test-fixated system, he has kept an open door with educators. While we’ve agreed and disagreed on issues, at his core, Carvalho is a passionate educator who understands the importance of teaching and learning—and of educators—and knows how public education is foundational to democracy and opportunity.”

First Person

With roots in Cuba and Spain, Newark student came to America to ‘shine bright’

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Layla Gonzalez

This is my story of how we came to America and why.

I am from Mallorca, Spain. I am also from Cuba, because of my dad. My dad is from Cuba and my grandmother, grandfather, uncle, aunt, and so on. That is what makes our family special — we are different.

We came to America when my sister and I were little girls. My sister was three and I was one.

The first reason why we came here to America was for a better life. My parents wanted to raise us in a better place. We also came for better jobs and better pay so we can keep this family together.

We also came here to have more opportunities — they do call this country the “Land Of Opportunities.” We came to make our dreams come true.

In addition, my family and I came to America for adventure. We came to discover new things, to be ourselves, and to be free.

Moreover, we also came here to learn new things like English. When we came here we didn’t know any English at all. It was really hard to learn a language that we didn’t know, but we learned.

Thank God that my sister and I learned quickly so we can go to school. I had a lot of fun learning and throughout the years we do learn something new each day. My sister and I got smarter and smarter and we made our family proud.

When my sister Amira and I first walked into Hawkins Street School I had the feeling that we were going to be well taught.

We have always been taught by the best even when we don’t realize. Like in the times when we think we are in trouble because our parents are mad. Well we are not in trouble, they are just trying to teach us something so that we don’t make the same mistake.

And that is why we are here to learn something new each day.

Sometimes I feel like I belong here and that I will be alright. Because this is the land where you can feel free to trust your first instinct and to be who you want to be and smile bright and look up and say, “Thank you.”

As you can see, this is why we came to America and why we can shine bright.

Layla Gonzalez is a fourth-grader at Hawkins Street School. This essay is adapted from “The Hispanic American Dreams of Hawkins Street School,” a self-published book by the school’s students and staff that was compiled by teacher Ana Couto.

First Person

From ‘abandoned’ to ‘blessed,’ Newark teacher sees herself in her students

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Jennifer Palumbo

As I sit down to write about my journey to the USA, all I can think of is the word “blessed.”

You see my story to become Ms. Palumbo started as a whole other person with a different name in a different country. I was born in Bogota, Colombia, but my parents either could not keep me or did not want me. I was, according to my adoption papers, “abandoned.” Abandoned is defined as “having been deserted or cast off.” Not a great start to my story, I know.

Well I was then put in an orphanage for children who had no family. Yes at this point I had no family, no home, not even a name.
I spent the first 10 months of my life in this orphanage. Most children at 10 months are crawling, trying to talk, holding their bottles, and some are even walking. Since I spent 10 months laying in a crib, I did none of those things.

Despite that my day to be chosen arrived. I was adopted by an Italian American couple who, after walking up and down rows of babies and children, chose to adopt me. My title just changed from abandoned to chosen.

But that wasn’t the only thing about to change. My first baby passport to leave Colombia is with the name given by the orphanage to an abandoned baby girl with no one. When I arrived in America my parents changed that name to Jennifer Marie Palumbo and began my citizenship and naturalization paperwork so I could become an U.S. citizen.

They tried to make a little Colombian girl an Italian American, so I was raised speaking only English. Eating lots of pasta and living a typical American lifestyle. But as I grew up I knew there was something more — I was something more.

By fourth grade, I gravitated to the Spanish girls that moved into town and spent many after-schools and sleepovers looking to understand who I was. I began to learn how to dance to Spanish music and eat Spanish foods.

I would try to speak and understand the language the best I could even though I could not use it at home. In middle school, high school, and three semesters at Kean University, I studied Spanish. I traveled to Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Honduras to explore Spanish culture and language. I finally felt like the missing piece of my puzzle was filled.

And then the opportunity to come to Hawkins Street School came and as what — a bilingual second-grade teacher. I understood these students in a way that is hard to explain.

They are like me but in a way backwards.

They are fluent in Spanish and hungry to obtain fluency in English to succeed in the world. I was fluent in English with a hunger to obtain it in Spanish to succeed in the world. I feel as a child I lost out.

My road until now has by far not been an easy one, but I am a blessed educated Hispanic American. I know that my road is not over. There are so many places to see, so many food to taste, and so many songs to dance too.

I thank my students over the past four years for being such a big part of this little “abandoned” baby who became a “chosen” child grown into a “blessed teacher.” They fill my heart and I will always be here to help them have a blessed story because the stars are in their reach no matter what language barrier is there.

We can break through!

Palumbo is a second-grade bilingual teacher Hawkins Street School. This essay is from “The Hispanic American Dreams of Hawkins Street School,” a self-published book by the school’s students and staff that was compiled by teacher Ana Couto.