New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fari–a was the guest speaker Tuesday night at the Queens Borough President’s Parents Advisory Board where she said bluntly that the success she envisions for the school system will not be accomplished overnight.
“But we have accomplished a lot in five months,” she said.
Fari–a, who came on board with Mayor de Blasio in January, told a room of 60 at Borough Hall the system cleared a major hurdle with the recent settlement of the long-expired teachers’ contract.
“I think the reason it worked is that we went into it as partners,” she said.
If it is at all possible, Fari–a might embrace de Blasio’s universal prekindergarten plans even more fervently than the mayor does. And she said parents in Queens who may not get their first preference of sites — often a zoned public school — still stand to benefit greatly.
“Particularly with all the [community-based organizations],” Fari–a said. “Queens seems to be the richest borough in terms of CBOs.” But she encouraged parents to leave themselves some flexibility when applying for positions prior to the June 26 deadline.
She also said they now have offices that either did not exist before or had been eliminated by budget cuts in recent years.
“We now have an office for gifted and talented programs,” she said. “We have offices for professional development and for guidance. These offices did not exist five months ago.”
With the planned expansion of charter and co-located schools, Fari–a said that in most cases decisions have been made and the schools will be moving forward as planned.
But she is promising all necessary Department of Education resources and ingenuity to help smooth over any problems.
She said special teams already have been dispatched to help reach accommodations where two or more school administrations need the assistance.
In a statement near and dear to Katz’s heart, Fari–a said the proposed budget calls for $23 million for arts education.
And the chancellor said she will be the first to admit that the Department of Education needs a major overhaul of its website.
“But that costs money,” she said. “We’re trying to see what we can do in-house. I’m frugal.”
In that same vein, she wants to have a master phone list in time for September for people tired of feeling they are running into walls at 311 for DOE-related issues, a list, she said, that would allow someone to make one call to one office for specific problems and services.
Fari–a also wants to greatly expand the number of career and technical high schools, and to change people’s impression of them.
“We want to advertise what they are and what they are not,” Fari–a said. “These are not your parents’ vo-tech schools, where you went there and would never go to college. These are college prep schools and the students are workforce ready.”
She said they especially want to encourage girls with an interest in particular technical or career fields to consider the schools, which she said “are oversaturated with boys.”