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Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Carmen Farina Chronicles: NY Times Starts The Carmen Spin

The article below raises some red flags. I worked closely with Carmen Farina, the new public schools CEO, at PS 6 for two years, until May 23, 2000 when I asked where the money was for the Annenberg Challenge For The Arts Program. Carmen had asked me to attend the Annenberg Challenge For The Arts Conference at Riverside Church, and she told me that I would represent PS6's arts program. We were partners with PS 198, also in Manhattan. In the afternoon, two teachers came over to me from PS 198, after they had heard me speak about how PS 6 and, I said, PS 198, had followed up with fundraising, and they told me that they had no arts program and had never heard of the Annenberg Challenge For The Arts Grant. PS 198 Principal Gloria Buckery had been the first member of the Arts Together Community Partnership when I created for Carmen as a fundraising tool for the schools (PS 6 & 198). I had trusted Carmen when she told me she was working with the Center For Arts Education on getting the arts into PS 198.

I have no idea where the authors of the Challenge Journal below got their information
about the PS 6- PS 198 arts collaboration cited in their report below after the NY TIMES article, but the teachers told me they knew nothing about it.

The NY TIMES cites Carmen's "success" after she got rid of 80% of the teachers, when indeed, the scores of the children and the overall rating of PS 6 fell drastically during her reign. Carmen put in dumbed down math or TERC, Balanced Literacy, and other programs as well as ended the Gifted and Talented Program. Doesn't anyone remember the changing of grades for seniors and the public anger that followed?

Whenever the UFT contacted Carmen expressing any kind of dismay, Carmen told them not to call back. No one did. Carmen openly disparaged the Union and told everyone not to worry, "they would not get in her way".

The most worrisome in the NYTIMES piece is this fabrication:
"Ms. Fariña said she had left the Bloomberg administration because of the issue of professional development, though other education insiders alluded to other philosophical differences as well."

Carmen was shown the door, however way she wanted to leave the Deputy Chancellorship (retire, resign, be fired) after she gave a free seat to the daughter of Lee McCaskill, Principal of Brooklyn Tech (his wife was also a DOE employee) in a District 15 elementary school even though the family lived in New Jersey. The DOE allowed McCaskill to resign. We heard that Cathy Furman McCaskill resigned her position as well.

Brooklyn Tech Principal Lee McCaskill
The McCaskill scandal arose while Steve Ostrin, a Brooklyn Tech teacher held in the Brooklyn rubber room for almost 7 years, went to trial and McCaskill resigned his position immediately following his testimony. Eric Nadelstern also resigned after I exposed a memo written by Teresa Europe and DOE Attorney Cheryl Smith Massena.
DOE Attorney Cheryl Smith Massena
on ch. 2 quiz show (she lost)

Also, there was the matter of Diana Lam's husband getting a job without going to the Conflict of Interest Board.

Talking about conflicts, why does Bill De Blasio say he is opposed to Charters, and his SEO is very much enamored with the Ascend Charter Schools Network? What is that about?

We must not forget, but let's see what she does now. Maybe we can forgive. But let's get the facts right.

Betsy Combier

Update: on January 5 2014 the NYPOST says that Carmen's salary is going to be double that of the Mayor's. I have an idea: why not ask Carmen to donate her salary to creating arts programs in schools that have none?

What do you say, Carmen?
Schools Chancellor Brings Joyful and Fierce Style


Late in the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, Carmen Fariña was preparing to have 10 people over to dinner, a plan, she joked, she wouldn’t have made had she known that the next day would mark the beginning of her tenure as the city’s new schools chancellor. Perhaps out of a subliminal sense of premonition or foresight, or just grandmotherly efficiency, she had arranged for a caterer.
In our conversation, rather than trying to get into the granular details of how she would deal with unions or charter schools, ideas and tactics clearly evolving, Ms. Fariña and I talked about her philosophical approach to actual teaching and leadership.

By various accounts, and what is suggested in her own telling, Ms. Fariña is both fierce and dexterous. As a 40-year veteran of the city school system, she accrued numerous and enviable successes as teacher, principal and superintendent, rising to deputy chancellor in the early years of the Bloomberg era.

Serving as the principal of Public School 6 on the Upper East Side during the 1990s, she overturned 80 percent of the staff, greatly improving the school’s standing. One teacher was so awful, Ms. Fariña told me, that the incompetence became consuming. “I’d wake up during the night thinking about the children who had to deal with this teacher,” she said.

Her management took the form of a Machiavellian benevolence — the kind of approach you imagine is taught to aspiring executives in certain classes at Wharton, whereby the party about to be demoted or fired is encouraged to believe that what is happening is the best possible result for him or her. At P.S. 6, Ms. Farina got rid of only three teachers outright, she told me. The rest she counseled out, helping them to see — presumably in some instances where they couldn’t obviously see it for themselves — that they were really better suited for other things. When she rose to higher levels and oversaw principals, she worked in much the same way, assisting one principal, who wasn’t doing a particularly good job, for instance, in finding a new, more bureaucratically oriented position within the system.
“It turned out she liked paperwork,” Ms. Farina said. “You think no one likes paperwork.”

One of the most contentious challenges the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio will face is contract negotiations with the teachers’ union, particularly around the question of the so-called A.T.R. — the Absent Teacher Reserve. These are teachers who are receiving full pay even though they are working as substitutes or in clerical positions, having been dismissed for poor performance or having lost their jobs to school closings or budget cuts without getting rehired. Because Mr. de Blasio and Ms. Fariña are not fully in the reformist mind-set, their critics speculate that they will be reflexively acquiescent or at least highly vulnerable to union influence, but it’s hard to imagine someone with Ms. Fariña’s record prodding the mayor to consent to outrageous and possibly perilous demands.
Ms. Farina is a progressive educator who speaks movingly about returning joy to the project of teaching children. “We’ve lost the spirit that education is a calling,” she told me.
She is passionate about social studies and science; she is not opposed to the Common Core or to testing generally. “Life is a series of tests in many ways,” she said. What she opposes, she explained, are myopic systems of learning in which real knowledge becomes a casualty of test knowledge, and what she calls “the gotcha mentality” of the Bloomberg years, when teachers and principals were often abandoned instead of being given whatever support they might need to improve.
“Even the worst principals work hard,” she said. “When we support them, then we can hold them accountable.”
Ms. Fariña said she had left the Bloomberg administration because of the issue of professional development, though other education insiders alluded to other philosophical differences as well.
Ultimately Ms. Fariña’s biggest task may be to broker an ideological peace between those who believe that joy and rigor are compatible and those who don’t, between those who believe that progressive education works only for children growing up in prewar apartments with parents who have read every John Updike novel twice and those who believe that disadvantaged children can benefit from it as well.

Ms. Fariña is a fan of “balanced literacy,” designed chiefly by Professor Lucy Calkins of Columbia, an approach rooted in the idea that children build reading skill by reading books that they love and that engage them. The Bloomberg administration favored this approach until a study two years ago, following 1,000 city school children in 20 schools from kindergarten through second grade, indicated that those second graders taught with a curriculum focused more on nonfiction scored higher on reading comprehension than those in the comparison schools. At the time, Ms. Fariña criticized the study for focusing on too few schools.
Ms. Fariña said there were many potential ways to approach context-based learning and, for instance, to improve vocabulary. Giving children actual lyric sheets when they are singing in class, she said, could be one way of exposing them to new words. One method for going forward might be to teach fundamentals in a more traditional way until fourth grade or so, to lay the groundwork for more expansive learning, and then take things in more experimental directions. TheAscend network of charter schools, educating some of the poorest children in the city in central Brooklyn, has had great success with that model, borrowing the humanities-driven approach of progressive private schools once children are beyond the earliest elementary grades. By sixth grade, Ascend students are reading “The Iliad.” The network’s test scores have been impressive.

Dialogue, debate and excitement in the classroom should obviously be the goals of all educators. “Once I was about to visit a principal,” Ms. Fariña said, “who told me, ‘You’re going to love coming here because you can hear a pin drop.’ I said, ‘I better not come because that isn’t going to make me happy.’ ”

The Annenberg Challenge

Annenberg Institute
How the Arts Transform Schools: A Challenge for All to Share
FALL 1998

Carmen Farina to the Head of the Class?

 Alonso Succeeds Carmen Farina As Klein Deputy

Former Deputy Chancellor Carmen Farina Retired Because of Her Complicity With
the   McCaskill Wrongdoing


  The Arrogance of Immunity and the "Resignation" -or Retirement - of NYC DOE
Deputy Chancellor Carmen Farina

By Carl Campanile, March 12, 2004

Schools chancellor Joel Klein yesterday named a 40-year veteran educator to replace his top aide, Diana Lam, who was ousted in a nepotism scandal.

Carmen Farina, superintendent of Brooklyn’s Region 8, was named acting deputy chancellor for teaching and learning. Before becoming a superintendent, she was a principal at PS 6 on the Upper East Side, one of the city’s highest performing schools. Farina, well regarded within the school system, said she supported the controversial curriculum implemented by Klein and Lam “150 percent.”

She also backs the new policy to hold back third-grade students who do poorly on standardized reading and math exams.

Klein’s first choice to replace Lam, policy adviser Michele Cahill, was rejected by state officials because she doesn’t have an education degree.
Klein, a businessman and lawyer, got a waiver to become chancellor, but Albany said the law provides no exception for other positions.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg gave the beleaguered chancellor a vote of confidence yesterday, hoping to put an end to the nepotism scandal.

“[Klein] is standing with me and he’s going to be standing right with me for the next six years. Make no mistake about that,” Bloomberg said.

The mayor was instrumental in getting rid of Lam, who was accused of using her clout to get two department jobs for her husband, Peter Plattes, without clearance from the City Conflicts of Interest Board. Klein’s legal counsel, Chad Vignola, was forced to resign after a report by schools investigator Richard Condon found he attempted to cover up the scandal by referring to Plattes as a volunteer, not an employee.
 Diana Lam, Deputy Chancellor of the New York City Department of
Education, gets Fired


   PS 6 School Leadership Team Bylaws written by Carmen Farina in 2000

   DOE reprimand of Carmen Farina's SLT violations