Things are different.
Less than 100 days into her tenure as New York City schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña came to Flushing Wednesday night to try to prove that point to parents, teachers and administrators.
Responding to a series of questions at a town hall at PS 154 hosted by District 25’s Community Education Council, Fariña emphasized her experience as an educator and as a parent and grandparent of public school students.
She fielded questions on topics ranging from Common Core to arts and music and even school lunches and called for parents and staff to help fight for Mayor de Blasio’s universal prekindergarten plan, listing it as her top priority.
Addressing Common Core, Fariña explained that it is “a strategy, not a curriculum,” and said she is not opposed to the controversial program.
“I believe in it, but I don’t think it’s been rolled out well,” she said.
Fariña said the roots of Common Core were an effort to make American schoolchildren competitive with other countries that have more intensive educational policies.
“Our children need to compete for jobs with those from other countries and we have to keep an eye on what they’re doing,” she explained.
She said there would be more workshops in the future to train teachers on Common Core.
In many ways though, the chancellor worked to make clear had the new administration differs from the old one. On co-locations, she said the city Department of Education would only approve those that ir deems would allow all the schools sharing the space to work together.
“Co-locations can work as long as both schools benefit,” she said.
As an example, Fariña said she would favor co-locating elementary schools and middle schools in which the middle school would give first priority for admission to the students from the elementary school the shares the space.
Fariña noted that District 25 had always had a focus on art and music and said she was dedicated to bringing back funding for them.
“This district had them because you understood they had value,” she said.
The chancellor said she wants to see art and music incorporated into other subjects as well.
On bullying, she emphasized the importance of parents and grandparents to talk to children about their days at schools and offered suggestions on how they could get children to open up, including triggering a conversation on another subject and changing it to school when the child gets comfortable talking.
One of the last questions she fielded was on student lunches, as a parent noted that she’s seen students come home hungry despite qualifying for free lunch at school.\
Fariña said there is a stigma on students who get free lunch and they often skip lunch to avoid being made fun of.
“There are some students who are too embarrassed to eat their lunch in school; there’s a stigma,” she said.