NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Retiring New York City schools chancellor Carmen Fariña sat down for a frank interview Tuesday to talk about what’s next, and some of the hot-button issues facing the agency.
Fariña spoke exclusively with CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer.
Kramer asked Fariña if she felt nostalgic as she walked the halls of the New York City Department of Education.
“Yeah I think so a little bit, but I’m trying very hard to also think of the future,” Fariña said.
WEB EXTRA: 1-On-1 With Retiring Schools Chancellor Fariña
Fariña has been a New York City educator for more than 50 years. She has been a teacher, a principal, a superintendent, and of course, a schools chancellor who improved test scores and graduation rates. She also brought pre-K and 3K to tens of thousands of city kids.
After a visit to a classroom located at the DOE headquarters, the soon-to-retire chancellor talked with Kramer about many subjects – including how to tell whether a school is a good school or a bad school.
“The school climate – are people smiling… is there a sense of energy?” Fariña said.
Fariña also discussed the effect the outspoken students who survived the Florida school shooting are having on the nation.
“Their active engagement is a wonderful civics lesson,” she said.
Fariña also spoke out against the idea of arming teachers.
“A teacher’s job is to teach, and to be very honest, I don’t think they need that burden,” she said. “But I also feel that when teachers make a promise to teach, I think it would not be something that they would be comfortable doing, and I don’t think that we should impose that on them.”
One of Kramer and Fariña’s frankest exchanges concerned the educational neglect at some religious schools – yeshivas – which do not meet the bare minimum teaching requirements for English, math and other state-mandated subjects even though they receive tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.
“We have gone to visit these schools,” she said. “We’ve done over 15 school visits.”
It is a sticky wicket for Fariña. Her department is accused of dragging its feet on an investigation that has lasted well over two years without a conclusion.
The recently reelected Mayor Bill de Blasio is accused of lacking the political will to do something. That is why Fariña’s frankness was startling.
“It’s a matter of making moral decisions as well as legal decisions,” Fariña said, adding that the moral decisions are “that students should be able to read and write when they graduate school.”
But Fariña was careful to point out that it is up to the state to enforce it.
Kramer: “These are people who are getting public funds. Would you let another group get away with that?
Fariña: “Well, this is state monies, and this is why lot of criteria has to come from the state.”
Kramer: “Should they lose accreditation if they’re not training kids with basic skills?”
Fariña: “I think that’s what the commissioner’s working on now.”
The chancellor said her successor will have to carry that ball over the finish line. Meanwhile, she is filling up her dance card with plans to take a safari with one of her grandchildren, for art and history courses, and to continue a life of learning.
Mayor de Blasio has yet to name Fariña’s replacement.