By Mark Solter
On Monday, December 30th, Bill de Blasio appointed Carmen Fariña as the new Schools Chancellor at a press conference in the gymnasium of William Alexander Middle School 51, a public school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where both of his children attended. She will be replacing Dennis Walcott, who has served as chancellor since 2011.
Farina, 70, is a veteran of the system, having served as a teacher, principal, and deputy chancellor before retiring in 2006 when the Bloomberg administration first started pushing for drastic changes in the school system.
While he was mayor, Bloomberg promoted policies that involved closing failing schools, giving schools letter-grade evaluations, and relying heavily on standardized testing. Fariña, however, has stated that she wants to move away from these policies and place less of an emphasis on standardized testing. She has also indicated that she wants to emphasize parent involvement.
De Blasio said the selection emphasized his commitment to establishing universal pre-kindergarten and after-school programs for middle school students.
Fariña began her career as a teacher in Cobble Hill, later rising to become a principal at Manhattan’s P.S. 6 and the superintendent of Brooklyn’s District 15. She has also advised Bill de Blasio for twelve years, since he appointed her district superintendent when he served on the Brooklyn school board.
Many students are satisfied with the mayor’s choice for chancellor, citing her experience in the New York City Department of Education.
Mary Cao ’14 said, “Carmen Fariña has many years in the public education system and has been a teacher and principal for many years. I am confident that she can lead the DOE.”
Maia Konarska ’14 is less enthusiastic about Fariña’s appointment. “Cathy Black was a disaster. Fariña kept schools open on a day I was stuck in a B train on the Manhattan Bridge for 50 minute,s so obviously that makes me biased against her, but like I said, she can’t be worse than Cathy Black.”
Fariña has lived in Brooklyn all her life. Her parents, immigrants from Galicia, Spain, spoke very little English and came to the U.S. as refugees when fascist dictator Francisco Franco came to power.
Fariña initially said that she was not interested in the job but decided to come out of retirement to take the position. Rumors have swirled that she may only serve a year or two in the post, she has stated that her commitment to the job was “total” and that she was not doing it part-time.
Apart from appointing Fariña, de Blasio has also filled other important positions. William Bratton was selected to be the next commissioner of the New York Police Department. This will be his second time holding the position, having served as the Police Commissioner previously, under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani from 1994 to 1996.
Bratton oversaw significant reductions in homicides and other violent crimes during his first term as commissioner, and led the development of CompStat, a system that helps law enforcement track crime and deploy officers. Bratton will be replacing Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Konarska said, “I was never a fan of Ray Kelly. It is pretty terrible that police are cracking down on something as simple as jay walking but when I feel physically threatened they’re nowhere to be found. We’ll see, hopefully Bratton will be better.”
Bratton has publicly stated that he supports stop-and-frisk even though de Blasio has criticized the policy.
Cao said of the new commissioner, “I know that appointing a new police chief is especially difficult due to the tension surrounding the stop and frisk issue. I am confident that with William J. Bratton’s experience in the NYPD and LAPD that he will be able to maintain the decreased crime rate and not abuse the stop and frisk tactics.”
Bill de Blasio also appointed Phil Walzak to serve as his press secretary.
Walzak joined the campaign last January, and was hired by the campaign manager Bill Hyers. Previously, Walzak worked as a spokesman for Senator Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin, the first openly gay person on the U.S. Senate.
Chapman, Ben. “Mayor-elect Bill De Blasio Names Veteran Educator Carmen Farina as the next Chancellor of New York City’s School System .” NY Daily News. N.p., 30 Dec. 2013. Web. 23 Jan. 2014.
Colvin, Jill. “PolitickerNY.” Politicker Bill De Blasio Makes Next Round Of Appointments Comments. N.p., 6 Jan. 2014. Web. 23 Jan. 2014.
Durkin, Erin, Rocco Parascondola, and Larry Mcshane. “William Bratton Named NYPD Commissioner by Mayor-elect Bill De Blasio.” NY Daily News. N.p., 5 Dec. 2013. Web. 23 Jan. 2014.