New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio on Monday announced his appointment of Carmen Farina, a former teacher, principal and education administrator, to serve as chancellor of the nation's largest school system.
As chancellor, Farina will lead the city's Department of Education in setting curriculum and personnel policies for the school system of more than 1 million students and 75,000 teachers. She will also face a contract negotiation with the United Federation of Teachers -- New York City's affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers -- and a push to implement de Blasio's signature proposal to create a universal preschool program.
De Blasio made the announcement at M.S. 51, a middle school in Brooklyn that his two children attended.
"Carmen won't just be my chancellor as mayor; she'll be my chancellor as a public school parent," de Blasio said in a statement. "For years, I've watched her innovate new ways to reach students, transform troubled schools and fight against wrongheaded policies that hurt our kids. ... She knows our students, teachers, principals and parents better than anyone, and she will deliver progressive change in our schools that lifts up children in every neighborhood."
Farina began her more than 40-year education career at a Brooklyn elementary school, where she spent more than 20 years as a teacher. After rising through the ranks of the public school system, serving first as a principal and later as a district superintendent, Farina was appointed deputy chancellor for teaching and learning in 2004.
Jonathan Schleifer, New York executive director for the advocacy group Educators 4 Excellence, said in a statement Farina has a history of "supporting teachers and considering their experiences in developing public school policies."
"This approach will be more important than ever as city educators take on the challenges presented by the Common Core and new evaluation system," Schleifer said. "We look forward to working with the next chancellor to turn her vision for quality schooling into a reality for students across the five boroughs."
Since her retirement from the Department of Education in 2006, Farina has remained an advocate of early childhood education and a critic of high-stakes standardized testing, both in line with de Blasio's education beliefs.
"True change happens not through mandates and top-down decision making but through communication, collaboration and celebrating the successes along the way," Farina said in a statement. "Raising the success rate of our students is the only goal. I anticipate the entire city will aid us on this effort."
Representatives from the UFT teacher's union, which has gone without a contract since 2009, said they look forward to working with Farina, who UFT President Michael Mulgrew said is "a real educator."
"Carmen was always on the cutting edge," said former UFT district representative Robert Zuckerberg, in a statement. "Her education background and abilities were extensive. She knows her business."
Another agenda item for Farina is pushing for de Blasio's plan to fund a universal preschool program by raising taxes for those making more than $500,000 a year, which would need approval from the state Legislature.
While educators and politicians offered hearty congratulations on the appointment, reactions from charter school leaders were more apprehensive. Both Farina and de Blasio have been critical of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to open new charter schools and allow them to share facilities with public schools in recent months.
"I know Carmen well and she is an educator who cares," said Eva Moskowitz, founder and chief executive officer of Success Academy Charter Schools, in a statement. "The question is will she protect and expand public charter school options for families who need and are demanding them?"