2014-02-28 / Top Stories

Chancellor Visits Rockaway

By Miriam Rosenberg

Chancellor Carmen Fariña addresses the crowd. Chancellor Carmen Fariña addresses the crowd. She admitted that the Common Core rollout could have been better handled, believes gifted and talented programs should be available to all city school children, talked about Universal Pre-K and listened to problems and concerns from parents and teachers.

New Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña visited Rockaway to explain her vision for the schools and answer questions. The appearance, at Goldie Maple Academy in Arverne, was hosted by Community Education Council 27 and was the first of her visits to the 32 councils within the school system.

“I really see myself as a caregiver,” Fariña said, a former teacher, principal and superintendent. “I see myself as someone who is here to listen to you and then make sure that whatever you have to say is listened to respectfully. We won’t always agree, but at least we will always listen. I think that is important.”

The first question posed to her was about the Common Core. “I think it was implemented, rolled out, without too much thought,” she said.

Going forward Fariña said there will be workshops or developmental days for elected officials, principals, teachers and parents on the Common Core. “I think it is a little difficult for teachers to be assessed on something they really haven’t had a chance to be trained in or work at,” she said.

On Universal Pre-K she said that at least 70 percent is expected to be run by community based organizations. At the time of her February 24th visit to Rockaway approximately 800 new classrooms had been identified.

“Now we have to see how many sites meet requirements,” said Fariña. “We will be sending out our survey team to make sure they are safe and appropriate.”

The topic of busing was a big concern. Among those speaking out on the issue was CEC member Michael Duvalle, Democratic District Leader Lew Simon and local parent Sandra Schunk, who has a 13-year-old autistic daughter.

Duvalle said most of the time the buses are late or don’t show up. Schunk said, “They’re usually 3 to 4 hours late picking my child up and nobody returns my calls.”

Simon, who is working to help Schunk, added, “It’s unacceptable that a child should be brought to school at 10, 11 o’clock. Any child with autism, you change anything in their life and it affects them.”

Fariña immediately instructed Kathleen Grimm, a deputy chancellor who is in charge of transportation, to take Schunk’s information.

The chancellor told the audience that she wanted to change the tone of the Office of Family Engagement, which reports directly to her. “Parent involvement is very important to me,” she said. Plans are currently underway for all-day parent conferences in each borough. She also wants to reinvent the position of parent coordinator.

“The parent coordinator should be who parents go to first,” said Fariña. “I will bring back training for parent coordinators because they should be a central part of your schools.”

Fariña also promised that any colocations would be in consultation with the community. “It’s going to be done with people, not to people,” she said.

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