I have a pet theory that some of the worst damage done to our cities is inflicted by local school boards. Recently, NYC Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Fariña tossed my pet theory a large tasty bone.
On October 1, she outlined her vision for NYC’s 1.1 million school children. In a speech, she “introduced a bold, innovative, research-based capacity framework for guiding and measuring our city’s schools. The framework stresses… rigorous instruction, supportive environment, collaborative teachers, effective school leadership, strong family-community ties, and trust.”
In the process, back in July, she shook up the Department by telling all 42 superintendents they would have to reapply for their jobs. That’s a harsh, but proven way to get rid of the deadwood in an organization. It seemed to be working, because only 27 of the 42 made the cut.
To fill the empty seats, on October 21, she announced the appointment of 15 new superintendents to the Department of Education. In a story from the New York Post, seven of the new superintendents had previously led schools that were rated below average.
Just how low is average in New York? Citywide, in the New York State 2014 Common Core tests, only 38 percent of students passed the math test, and 29 percent passed the reading test.
That’s a pitifully low bar, but seven of the new superintendents were far below it.
For new superintendent Maria Lopez, only ten percent of the students at her IS 318 in The Bronx passed math and only seven percent passed reading.
When Mabel Muñiz-Sarduy ran PS 86 in Brooklyn, only 24 percent passed the math test and 21 percent passed the reading exam.
At PS/IS 218 in The Bronx, only 24 percent passed math and 19 percent passed reading at PS/IS 218 in The Bronx, which Leticia Rodriguez-Rosario ran until the summer of 2013.
According to the Post, two other principals, Danielle Giunta and Rafaela Espinal, also received poor ratings on school progress report cards, or were in charge of schools that scored below city averages. Today, they’re superintendents in charge of thousands of students.
At the high school level, former School for International Studies principal Fred Walsh claimed he had no idea his assistant principal dismissed eighth-graders on the last day of school in June 2011 while marking them present. Three months later, he explored hiring a public relations consultant to improve the Brooklyn school’s image.
Walsh has also failed his way upward. Today, he is Superintendent of High Schools for five school districts.
Some New Yorkers who can still read are not delighted with this news. “Promoting principals, some of whom have overseen persistently failing schools themselves, does not come close to addressing the problem,” said Jenny Sedlis of StudentsFirstNY.
But Fariña insists these are just the people for the job. “Each superintendent has a proven track record and is committed to working tirelessly to improve the schools they support … I will hold them accountable,” she said.
Rounding out the Magnificent Seven Substandard Superintendents is Michael Prayor. His Brooklyn High School for Law and Technology prepared only 12 percent of its students for college, and had a graduation rate of merely 49 percent in 2013. I’m not sure how high school dropouts can find careers in law and technology.
Maybe they can get jobs in Mayor Bill De Blasio’s administration. He seems determined to lower the bar for everyone.
(Photo: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)