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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Carmen Appoints Dorita Gibson, Phil Weinberg, and Anna Commitante To Key Department of Education Positions

Chancellor Fariña Announces New Appointments at Department Of Education Headquarters

Veteran Educators to Lead Tweed into a New Era of School Support
New Leadership Will Renew Emphasis on Improving Instruction to Enhance Learning

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña today announced new members of her leadership team at Department of Education (DOE) headquarters. Dorita Gibson, previously the Deputy Chancellor for Equity and Access, will assume the role of Senior Deputy Chancellor and the Chancellor’s second in command. With more than 30 years experience in the public school system, Dr. Gibson has served as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, regional and supervising superintendent, and Deputy Chancellor. In this new and expanded role, she will oversee all aspects of school support, Cluster and Network management, superintendents, support for struggling schools, District 79 programs, and school communications.

As head of Equity and Access under Chancellor Walcott, Deputy Chancellor Gibson oversaw District 79, a citywide network of over 300 alternative schools and programs serving over-age, under-credited youth; the Office of Adult and Continuing Education; and the Department’s Young Men’s Initiative work. She created the DREAM-SHSI program, which helps low-income middle school students develop skills for the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, as well as the Summer Quest program, which provides students with summer learning opportunities aimed at closing the achievement gap. As she moves into the Department’s number two role, Dr. Gibson will bring her considerable expertise in expanding opportunities for underserved school communities.

Chancellor Fariña also appointed Phil Weinberg, previously the principal at the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology in Brooklyn, as Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning. With more than a dozen years as a principal and nearly three decades of experience in New York City public schools, Mr. Weinberg will oversee all professional development and curriculum, performance and accountability, Common Core and college-readiness initiatives, Career and Technical Education, and instructional support. The high school Mr. Weinberg has led since 2001 has achieved a more than 35 percent increase in graduation rates since 2005. The recipient of a 2012 Sloan Award for Public Service, Mr. Weinberg previously served on the DOE’s Division of Academics, Performance, and Support Advisory Group.

In one of his first acts as Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, Mr. Weinberg named Anna Commitante as his Executive Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development. A 27-year veteran educator, Ms. Commitante was previously a Deputy Cluster Leader of Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development. In her new role, she will provide leadership in curriculum development, assist schools as they transition to the Common Core Learning Standards, and direct a comprehensive professional development training program using research-based instructional methods.

“This is a new era for our schools, and these appointments send a clear message: our focus is on improving each and every classroom across the five boroughs. Having three educators with such extraordinary expertise about our City’s schools will help us channel all of our energy into quality instruction,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “Principals, teachers, and staff should know they will have leaders who will not only listen, but take action to support them. This is the first step in the process of making our school system more in touch, more responsive, and more mindful of those we work with and serve.”

“With more than three decades working on behalf of City students, I’m honored to take on this role as Chancellor Fariña’s second in command. My plan is to support schools no matter what their challenges may be – instructionally, operationally, or otherwise,” said Senior Deputy Chancellor Dorita Gibson. “As I work to support all of our schools, I will lead by listening. We’re taking a new tone – and we plan to back it up with action.”

“I started my career as a teacher over 28 years ago, and I’m so proud to be named to this instrumental new role today. I first became a teacher because I believed it was the most authentic way I could contribute to our community. In this new role as Deputy Chancellor, I have the ability to work with, support, and empower those on the ground doing the hard work of educating our students each day,” said Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning Phil Weinberg. “The most important thing to a student’s success is the quality of a teacher, and all of my focus will be on developing and streamlining ways to enhance instruction.”

“This is a time of renewal for our schools, and I’m thrilled to be in in this role to help our schools during this transition to Common Core,” said Anna Commitante, Executive Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development. “I’ve dedicated my career to the development of principals, teachers, and schools, and I look forward to continuing to do that. With our renewed focus on professional development, we will prepare our teachers like never before for the important work that lies ahead.”

About Dr. Dorita Gibson

Dr. Dorita Gibson has spent more than 30 years in the New York City school system as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal at various schools in Queens, and has served as a deputy, regional and senior supervising superintendent. Appointed Deputy Chancellor for Equity and Access in May 2011, Gibson oversees programs and initiatives that focus on ending long-standing racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities and directing supports to high-need communities. She directs District 79, a citywide network of over 300 alternative schools and programs serving over-age, under-credited youth whose schooling has been interrupted, the Office of Adult and Continuing Education, as well as the Department’s Young Men’s Initiative work. As Deputy Chancellor, Gibson has expanded Advanced Placement courses in the City’s most underserved neighborhoods and communities. She also created the DREAM-SHSI program, which helps low-income middle school students develop skills for the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, and the Summer Quest program to improve, expand, and sustain summer learning opportunities in the South Bronx as a key strategy for closing the achievement gap. Gibson holds a Doctorate in Education from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education.

[This was posted on the DOE website in 2011:

Dorita P. Gibson
Age: 56
Title: Deputy Chancellor, Division of Equity and Access
Responsibilities: Overseeing District 79, a group of alternative schools that include G.E.D. programs and adult education, as well as schools for incarcerated students. She also runs programs aimed at closing the achievement gap.
Salary: $192,528

Dr. Gibson took this position, which is new, in May 2011. At the time of her appointment, she had been working in the city’s public schools for nearly 30 years. She was previously an assistant principal of Junior High School 185 in Flushing, Queens, principal of Intermediate School 25, also in Flushing, and deputy superintendent of District 25. In 2002, when Mayor Bloomberg won mayoral control of schools and the local district lines and controls were erased, she became superintendent of Region 7, responsible for overseeing all of the schools in Staten Island and parts of southwest Brooklyn. When the department reorganized the way that schools get support, Dr. Gibson became the deputy chief operating officer of one of the city’s four support teams for schools. When another reorganization took place and her support organization was dissolved, Dr. Gibson became the senior supervising superintendent. She has a bachelor’s degree from Albertus Magnus College and both a master’s degree and a doctorate in education from New York University, where she studied programs focused on students who perform poorly in otherwise successful middle schools.]

Chalkbeat NY

Fariña promotes longtime principal, Bloomberg-era deputy to top posts

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña promoted a Bloomberg-era official and plucked a longtime principal from his Brooklyn school today as she began to fill out the Department of Education’s inner circle.
Dorita Gibson, previously the deputy chancellor for equity and access, will be Fariña’s second in command, the Department of Education announced today. In her previous position, Gibson supervised the department’s system of alternative schools and its work with the Bloomberg administration’s Young Men’s Initiative, and launched new programs to diversify selective high schools.
Phil Weinberg, principal of the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology, is the department’s new deputy chancellor for teaching and learning. That position, which Fariña herself held a decade ago, disappeared in 2010 when the department dissolved its division of teaching and learning.
Weinberg has chosen the city’s former gifted education chief, Anna Commitante, to be his top deputy. Commitante had been working as a deputy in one of the department’s five “clusters,” providing instructional support to dozens of schools.
Together, the three appointments offer the clearest picture yet about Fariña’s priorities. All three of the new hires have been in the system for decades and have been teachers and principals in the school system.
Gibson has served at almost every level of school leadership, starting as a teacher in Queens and serving as a principal, regional superintendent and deputy superintendent. Her appointment as senior deputy chancellor also signals that Fariña doesn’t intend to purge some Bloomberg-era policies and appointees from the department.
“We’ve done such great work in the last 11, 12 years of this administration. We have great schools. We have great programs,” Gibson told Chalkbeat in August. “But how do we as a school system make sure that all of our kids, regardless of their color and socioeconomic background, succeed in these programs?”
Weinberg has served as the principal at Telecommunication since 2001, the school where he started his career as an English teacher in 1986, according to a New York Times storyhighlighting his longevity as a principal.
Weinberg has also voiced concerns about the new teacher evaluation system, which he said put too much faith in data, rather than principals’ judgment. “Newly necessary distractions like marketing and fund-raising and data analysis may have seemed more important than getting into classrooms and working with teachers on how to plan lessons and ask questions,” he wrote in 2012.

About Phil Weinberg

Phil Weinberg has nearly three decades of experience in New York City’s public schools. For more than a decade he taught English at the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology in Brooklyn. He later served as assistant principal there, and was named principal in 2001, a position he has held for 13 years. At this large, urban, high-poverty school, in which more than 70 percent of students are Title 1 eligible, Mr. Weinberg established small learning communities, through which his students saw extraordinary success: the graduation rate has increased by more than 35 percent since 2005. A 2012 recipient of the Sloan Award for Public Service, Mr. Weinberg holds a bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College and a Master of Arts degree from Columbia University’s Teachers College.

About Anna Commitante

Anna Commitante, a 27 year veteran educator, was most recently Deputy Cluster Leader of Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development in Cluster 2. Previously, Ms. Commitante was the K-12 Director of Literacy, Social Studies and Gifted and Talented Programs for the NYC DOE. She began her career in education as an elementary school teacher at PS 29 in Brooklyn, worked in school support as a district literacy coach/staff developer, and led a job-embedded professional development program for schools at City Hall Academy. Ms. Commitante also served as principal of New Voices Middle School in District 15, Brooklyn, a school that offers a strong humanities curriculum and fully integrated arts program. She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Hunter College and a degree in educational administration from City College.
Anna Commitante

Anna Commitante has 23 years of experience with the New York City Department of Education and prior to joining Cluster 2 was the citywide Director of English Language Arts, Social Studies and Gifted/Talented & Enrichment. Prior to that position, Anna was the Executive Director of City Hall Academy, a professional development laboratory school located on the first floor of the DOE main office in the Tweed Courthouse. The programs at City Hall Academy demonstrated ‘best practices’ and innovative instruction for students, teachers and administrators in grades K-12.

Anna received her education at Hunter College (BFA, MA) and City College of the City University of New York (SDA). Anna began her teaching career as a classroom teacher at P.S. 29 in Brooklyn, New York. She left classroom teaching to work as a district literacy staff developer, before assuming leadership of a middle school in Brooklyn. Throughout her teaching and administrative career, Anna has worked with many educational and cultural organizations and has focused on curriculum design and development across grade levels and disciplines to support student engagement and achievement.


Gifted and Talented Elementary Grade Kids in Districts 26 and 30 in Queens Will Automatically Get G&T Middle School Placement

Are we seeing a "new" Carmen (Farina)? Is she trying to have those parents, teachers and children who were harmed back when she was Principal of PS 6, at Region 8, Superintendent of District 15 and Deputy Chancellor under Mayor Bloomberg "forget" what happened and start over? Or is her current agreement with the G&T parents in Queens to have their kids skip any testing for the Middle School simply a part of her honeymoon with NYC?

When Carmen was Principal of PS 6, she destroyed the G&T program because she thought that G&T led to favoritism. She wanted all kids to learn in the classroom, so the kids that scored 1 or 2 on tests should be brought to a high 2 or even a three, and kids that scored a 3, or 4 could be brought to a low 3 or high 2, and then the young teachers without tenure who were hired to replace the tenured teachers with high salaries could succeed in teaching the Whole Language and TERC math curricula.....often cited in articles and websites as part of the "dumbing down of America".

I guess we will have to see what happens next.

Betsy Combier


City agrees to grandfather District 26 gifted and talented students into middle school 

Parents of the G&T students in northeast Queens had raised an outcry after the city attempted to base middle school admissions on ELA and math test scores

Comments (1)


Parents of students in the gifted and talented program at Public School 203, in Oakland Gardens, Queens, are pleased that their children will be automatically accepted into the middle school G&T program.

Don’t mess with the parents of the brightest students in northeast Queens.
The city backed off a hotly contested plan on Tuesday to force elementary students in the gifted and talented program in District 26 to reapply for the coveted middle school seats. The stunning reversal came after parents raised the war cry.
The Department of Education — under new Chancellor Carmen Fariña, agreed to grandfather current gifted students into the middle school program. Incoming kids will have to reapply based on their fourth grade ELA and math scores.
District 26 — and 30, in northwest Queens — are the only two in the city that guarantee students the highly-sought seats. Once admitted to the elementary school program — based on performance on a pair of aptitude tests administered before kindergarten — students may stay through middle school.
Students in all other city districts have to re-apply.
The Department of Education did not provide answers to questions about changes to the program, but parents took it as victory and said they were pleased.
“I’m very happy about this,” said one parent, Susan Oh, who has two sons in the gifted and talented program in Public School 203, in Oakland Gardens. “We were considering moving to Long Island, because our kids weren’t guaranteed a spot.”
She helped collect almost 800 signatures protesting the city’s decision to base middle school admissions to the gifted and talented program on test scores.
Parents — who typically jump through hoops to get their children a seat in the program — only learned of the policy change late last year, after their kids had already taken the state exams.
“Initially, we were all blind-sided,” said Christiana Moy, 46, of Fresh Meadows, who has two kids in the program at PS 203. “There are so many students who test very well in our district.”
Students classified as gifted and talented learn at a faster pace and can typically do work at least a grade level ahead of their peers.
“My child started reading when he was 2,” said Moy, adding that she fears the brainy students could become bored and potentially disruptive if they were ousted from the program. “In pre-K, he started to read to his class.”
City education officials pledged to add more middle school classes for students not already enrolled in the gifted and talented program.
Parents praised the move.
“We just want to have the opportunities for students,” said Jeannette Segal, president of Community Education Council in District 26.
She was optimistic that the city’s abrupt about-face was a departure from the Bloomberg administration’s our-way-or-the-highway style of decision-making.
“It gives me hope that parents are going to have a say, finally, in their children’s education,” Segal said of the new administration.
City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) also said he is cautiously encouraged.
“I’m glad we reached a solution that keeps these parents happy,” Weprin said. “One of the biggest flaws of the Bloomberg administration [was] it had complete disdain for parental input.”

Whistleblower Blames LAUSD for $60 Million Miramonte Sex 'Fiasco'

There is retaliation everywhere. Expect it. Protect yourself.

Betsy Combier


 LOS ANGELES (CN) - The chief risk manager Los Angeles Unified School District hired to help settle the Miramonte sexual abuse litigation claims he was fired after blowing the whistle on "corruption and cronyism" in the district's public law office.
     Seeking $10 million in damages in Superior Court, former LAUSD chief risk manager Gregg Breed claims the district's Office of General Counsel hired attorneys with scant experience in sexual molestation cases, ignored his advice on how to structure mediation payments and cut him out of crucial mediation sessions with Miramonte plaintiffs.
     Breed claims that "disastrous decision" could cost taxpayers as much as $60 million, as insurers refused to indemnify the district after they too were left out of the loop during mediation.
     Mark Berndt, a former Miramonte Elementary school teacher, was charged with 23 counts of lewd acts on 23 children age 7 to 10. He pleaded no-contest to the charges in November 2013.
     Miramonte teacher Martin Springer also was charged with lewd acts on a child. He is awaiting trial.
     Breed, hired in April 2012 at $14,438 a month plus benefits, claims in the lawsuit that LAUSD General Counsel David Holmquist farmed out the work to attorneys "based on his personal relationships" rather than on their expertise.
     Attorneys specializing in sexual assault and molestation cases typically charge about $175 per hour, Breed says in the complaint.
     But the attorneys that LAUSD hired, Thomas Delaney of the Sedgwick law firm, and Sean Andrade with Baute, Crochetiere and Maloney, charged $455 and $390 an hour, respectively, according to Breed.
     Breed said he recommended that the school district take a piecemeal approach to settling Miramonte cases, based on the "level of exposure and injury" of each claimant.
     He claims that the Office of General Counsel decided to offer a flat rate of $470,000 to each claimant instead.
     The law office arrived at that rate on Feb. 14, 2013, when the district's Chief Business and Compliance Counsel Gregory McNair, "under direction of LAUSD General Counsel David Holmquist," made the "highly suspect and ultimately disastrous decision" to exclude Breed and third-party insurers from a mediation session with Miramonte plaintiffs' counsel, Breed says in the complaint.
     Breed believes he was frozen out of the meeting because he would have mentioned his concerns about the blanket settlements.
     Worse, Breed claims, attorney McNair reviewed Miramonte fact sheets for the first time weeks after the district had gone public with the settlement.
     "McNair's actions violated the LAUSD's board-approved process to vet each litigant and ensure both that taxpayer dollars were spent properly and victims were adequately compensated, but not over compensated," the complaint states.
     According to Breed, claimant-submitted fact sheets were riddled with errors and missing key information.
     The Office of General Counsel's one-size-fits-all approach had unintended consequences, Breed says.
     He claims some students received settlements though they were never in a class with the accused teachers, while one student who was allocated an award was "touched just once on the shoulder."
     "Three claimants who received $470,000 each had made allegations against an accused teacher about whom LAUSD had no prior notice of sexual abuse," the complaint states, while two other students who were never abused received awards "on factors such as 'being angry' and 'not wanting to go on amusement park rides.'"
     Breed claims that when he complained to LAUSD about the way McNair was dealing with the Miramonte cases, he was told without explanation that his contract would not be renewed.
     When news of the $470,000 settlements reached the public, Holmquist, "to save face," said the district's insurers would foot the bill, Breed claims.
     He adds: "Holmquist's statement was designed to diminish the shock, should it ever be discovered that students who never even encountered the abuser were handed $470,000, a settlement strategy developed by one of Holmquist's subordinates. Holmquist also stated that LAUSD spent $1 million on defense costs, when the actual amount was over twice this amount."
     Because the district's insurers were not involved in the mediation process, as required by the district's insurance agreements, the insurers refused to indemnify the district or pay the settlement, Breed says.
     "As a result of rejecting plaintiff's advice to the contrary, it is likely that LAUSD will be solely liable for the $30 million committed in mediation and an additional $30 million allocated for the remaining Miramonte cases," according to the complaint.
     And, Breed says, insurers are refusing to cover the district for the 2013-2014 school year.
     "Despite the outside law firms' dereliction that has caused the LAUSD to lose insurance coverage for both the Miramonte cases and for all claims in the future, McNair, in another example of egregious cronyism, selected the same attorney (Andrade) to represent LAUSD in litigation filed by one of the insurance companies, Everest Insurance, where his own actions and decisions will be the central legal issue adjudicated." (Parentheses in complaint.)
     Breed claims that the district sought an injunction against him after the media tried to contact him last year. He says that "gag order" was created to "punish" him for blowing the whistle and prevent him from going public with information about the "Miramonte settlement fiasco."
     He claims the district refused several of his records requests under the Public Records Act.
     He seeks at least $10 million in damages for violation of free speech, failure to pay wages, retaliation, wrongful firing, conversion, unjust enrichment, breach of contract and other charges.
     LASUD is the only defendant.
     Breed is represented by Arnold Peter of Beverly Hills.