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De Blasio Names Carmen Farina Schools Leader

By Colby Hamilton | December 30, 2013 9:28am | Updated on December 30, 2013 12:54pm
 Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio appointed Carmen Fariña as the head of the city's school system on Monday, Dec. 30, 2013.
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio appointed Carmen Fariña as the head of the city's school system on Monday, Dec. 30, 2013.
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Council of School Supervisors and Administrators Local 1

CIVIC CENTER — Retired city schools veteran Carmen Fariña was tapped to become the city's next schools chancellor on Monday, bringing an insider's knowledge of four decades inside the school system alongside the teaching experience many advocates hoped for.

Fariña, who had been planning to move to Florida with her husband to retire, changed course after being wooed by Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio to take the top schools job, she told reporters at the William Alexander Middle School in Park Slope late Monday morning.

"I don't do anything halfway. If I take a job, I take a job. My commitment is total," said Fariña, 70, who added that her husband still plans to move to Florida, where she'll travel back and forth to visit him. "We're going to build on what was good and we're going to fix what was broken."

Fariña, a well-liked administrator who has been a close adviser to de Blasio on education, was often named as one of the front-runners for the post. 

After spending half her career in the classroom, she was principal at the Upper East Side's P.S. 6 for 10 years and then became a superintendent before being appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2004 as the deputy chancellor for teaching and learning. Two years later, she stepped down, citing a desire to spend more time with her grandchildren.

On Monday, Fariña waded into the host of controversial policies put in place under Mayor Michael Bloomberg's 12-year takeover of city schools, tackling co-location, professional development and high-stakes testing in a shift from past policies.

"If we do good teaching, that's the best test prep," Fariña said of her views on standardized tests, adding that tests themselves were not "bugaboos."

She added that she supports autonomy for principals in running their schools, saying, "We don't want principals who follow the rules — we want principals who create their own."

And she said while it's too soon to say what she will do about the school co-locations that were approved by the city this fall, she said she planned to look at all school proposals currently in the pipeline.

Fariña will be working with Chief of Staff Ursulina Ramirez, a former social worker and deputy public advocate.

Fariña will be instrumental in the mayor-elect's contract negotiations with the United Federation of Teachers, one of the first unions of public sector workers to call for retroactive raises.

She will also be responsible for executing de Blasio’s promise to create universal pre-K seats for every 4-year-old and expanded after-school programs for middle school students. The mayor-elect has repeatedly promised to have a significant rollout of the plan by the fall of 2014.