Carmen Farina: Politics Wins With Her Appointment as Deputy Chancellor in New York City
Parentadvocates.org has spoken to teachers, parents and administrators for more than three years about Mrs. Farina and her actions as she rose in the ranks of the New York City Department of Education. E-Accountability OPINION: unsatisfactory; Recommendation: resignation or termination
It is much too early to tell whether she'll have the job permanently," Bloomberg told the Daily News in March. "But I have not heard one bad word about her."
From the desk of Betsy Combier, former Executive Board member of the PS 6 PTA, who worked closely with Deputy Chancellor Carmen Farina for 2 years until May 23, 2000. That afternoon, after finding out that PS 198 did not receive equal part of the $225,000 Annenberg Challenge for the Arts Grant money in partnership with PS 6, (at an Annenberg Conference Ms. Farina sent me to at Riverside Church), I asked "where is the money?", a question that spurred a telephone call from Ms. Farina to my home during which she accused me of hiring/firing all the arts teachers at PS 6, taking the money (I never touched any money, never saw checks, never knew anything about the finances of the school), and speaking for PS 6, my worst crime.
Carmen Farina's appointment as Deputy Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education is as clear a message as the the New York City public has received to date that our Mayor simply is not listening to anyone outside of his immediate inner circle.
For the past three years The E-Accountability Foundation has interviewed parents and teachers at PS 6, in District 15 (Brooklyn), and from region 8, where Mrs. Farina was Regional Superintendent before being appointed Acting Deputy Chancellor of the NYC DOE in February, 2004, and then made Deputy Chancellor in May. Her disdain for parents - aside from those who she brings into her closed circle of friends - is legendary, and her School Leadership Team Bylaws at PS 6 violate almost every clause in the "Green Book" on SLT Regulations. She was reprimanded by the Director of the Parent Advocacy and Engagement Office, Jamal Young, in a May 2001 letter to me, sent to Carmen, Superintendent Shelley Harwayne, and several other people. Nothing was done about the Bylaws or the SLT at PS 6, but Jamal's aunt Birdie Blake-Reid was found guilty of improper payments of public funds to employees, and fined by the Conflict of Interest Board soon after.
Mrs. Farina is a Master at threatening retaliation for any deed that she does not support, and she follows up her threats quickly and forcibly.
Mrs. Fariña has been given the task of defending the city's work with special education students and the mayor's third-grade retention plan, among all the other items on the Mayor's agenda. She gets an A for spinning information that is false and misleading, making it sound legitimate, and silencing anyone who questions the data or her presentation. She has the power to have people who work for her scream and threaten parents and teachers so that she doesn't have to do all the work herself. This is a Master at work, as we uncover the major disgrace that is special education in New York City. Mrs. Farina gleefully told a packed Hunter College auditorium in May that she completed 12,000 evaluations in the month of March. We did our math, and divided 12,000 by 23, the working days in March. This means that more than 521 children were 'evaluated' every day, and the only way this could happen is if someone was paid to sit in a room, put a signature to a stack of evaluations, and throw the children's needs into the garbage. We do not believe that an in-depth evaluation of all the services and requests for assistive technology for each child was done.
What else do we know about Carmen?
Carmen Farina was the Principal of PS 6 on the Upper East Side of Manhattan for 10 years.During that time she developed a highly efficient teaching group, she kept the scores on standardized testing high, she implemented an almost total "fuzzy math" curriculum, ended the Gifted and Talented Program, kept teachers in their place by instituting fear for speaking out against her in any way, and denied parents who dared to confront her on anything any involvement in the School Leadership Team or on the PTA or any school committees. Parents asked questions about $225,000 for three years' partnership with PS 198 under the Annenberg Challenge for the Arts Grants, but this money was never accounted for. Under the grant guidelines from Annenberg, the Principal was responsible for establishing the evaluation. This, we believe, was a mistake. We wrote letters, tried to reach by telephone, and attended events of, the Center For Arts Education in order to ask questions about the implementation of the arts programs at PS 6 and PS 198, but no one would speak to us. District 2 Superintendent Shelley Harwayne would not speak to us. Ms. Cynthia List, former person in charge of School Leadership Teams, told me that she had "been told not to speak with me." We also wrote the Special Commissioner For Investigations, Mr. Ed Stancik. His office never replied:
Mr. Edward Stancik
65 Court Street
Brooklyn, New York 11201 May 17, 2001
Dear Mr. Stancik,
I am writing this letter to ask you to investigate Mrs. Carmen Farina, and her actions pertaining to the allocation of money received from the Annenberg Challenge For the Arts Grant.
Mrs. Farina was Principal of PS 6 from 1982 to February 1, 2001. She left in February to become Interim Acting Superintendant of District 15 in Brooklyn. In 1997 the Annenberg Foundation gave PS 6 and PS 198 in Manhattan a grant of $75,000 per year ( thus giving these schools more than $225,000 for performing arts programs ). This partnership between PS 6 and 198 was supposed to be used by both schools in partnership, and was to hire artists and groups for both schools.
I started working with Mrs. Farina at PS 6 on a program called The Arts Together Community Partnership (ATCP) in 1997. This group was designed to follow the Annenberg grant and raise money for the performing arts at both schools after the grant ended. I did not work on the grant itself, and had no knowledge of the money or artists involved with the Annenberg Grant.
In May, 2000, Mrs. Farina called me up and, completely out of the blue, accused me of taking the money from the Annenberg grant, and of hiring and firing all the artists in the school. She threw my work on the ATCP in the garbage, and wrote The Center For Arts Education and ArtsConnection that I was hiring and firing everybody.
Since this time I have found out:
1. No one knows what arts programs PS 198 had, if any. Some people I spoke with said that there seemed to be no partnership at all.
2. The Principal of 198 at the time, Ms. Gloria Buchery, has been removed, and has refused to tell anyone what partnership existed, if any. She has not spoken with anyone about the Annenberg money.
3. The Treasurer for PS 6 has told me that even though all the Annenberg money was kept at PS 6, no one on the Executive Board knew what was being spent, or to whom it was going to. Mrs. Farina had total control over the funds.
4. This year, the 5th Grade at PS 6 did not have arts classes, even though the Grant does not end until June of this year. My daughter, in 3rd Grade, was told that her drama class was cancelled due to lack of money.
We parents at PS 6 and PS 198 want to know where the $225,000 was allocated, when, and to whom. Please investigate this and Mrs. Carmen Farina.
Thank you. Mrs. Farina may be reached at:
360 Smith Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231
Home: 29 Tiffany Place #PH3
Brooklyn, NY 11231
Please let me know, as a member of the parent organization desiring this investigation of Carmen Farina, what you find.
The Annenberg money was particularly troubling, as there was no accountability for the funds, and indeed the Annenberg Foundation does not consider this a successful program.
In October 1997 I spoke with Carmen about helping her fundraise for the arts. She asked me to help her find a way to raise money for the arts at PS 6 when the Annenberg grant ran out. Over the next several days I thought about a parent-driven project that would be centered around a community association for the arts. Carmen loved the idea, so for the next 8 months I and several other parents discussed what is now known as "The Arts Together Community Partnership".
PS 6's grant from Annenberg was part of the Annenberg Challenge for the Arts, designed to partner two very different schools so that each could provide and share the grant money and arts programs. The Arts Together Community Partnership worked as a parent-driven organization that brought funds into both schools through a membership/community association. In March 2000 Carmen gave us $2000 to produce the ATCP brochure, and we were able to print 1000 copies for $1995. She loved it.
Carmen asked me to speak with the partner school's Principal, Gloria Buckery (former PS 198 Principal, now Region 6 Superintendent). I went over immediately with the brochure, and Gloria joined the Arts Together Community Partnership on the spot, donating $25.00. I brought the check back to PS 6 and left it with Carmen, as one of my rules is to never hold money that belongs in a school bank account.
Then, a strange thing happened. Carmen did not let me know what she would want the parents to do. We were meeting in the school cafeteria, but whenever we had a logistics problem, Carmen just did not answer. Then she told me that she wanted me to attend the Annenberg Conference on how to follow the grant with arts-funding ideas. I went to Riverside Church on May 23, 2000 for the conference, and went to an afternoon session at which I spoke very briefly about the ATCP. Two teachers from 198 told me at the end of the day that they had never heard of The Arts Together Community Partnership! They seemed very surprised to see the logo, with PS 6 on one side, and PS 198 on the other, because they did not know if, indeed, there were any arts programs at 198 funded by Annenberg. I was very concerned. When I returned home I received a telephone call from Carmen Farina, and she was extremely upset. She screamed that I was firing all the Annenberg artists, I was hiring others, I was taking the money, and I would not get away with it. She said, "You have NO right to speak for PS 6". I was stunned.
The next day I did exactly what she wanted, and that was to resign from my lunchtime club - helping 4th and 5th graders learn about charitable organizations - and my position on the PTA Executive Board. A few days later I received a letter in the mail that told me Carmen and Jane Gordan, the PTA President as witness, had thrown all the Arts Together Community Partnership materials into the garbage. Carmen wrote that I would NEVER set this project up at PS 6. Luckily, I had several brochures at home.
In 2003 Carmen spoke at the New York City Council about her new community Organization Program, "First Tuesdays". She said that all the restaurants in 15 were joining this program to supply needed After School money to district schools. The idea was very similar to the ATCP. So, I guess Carmen liked the ATCP after all! Just to make sure, I called Mr. Weiss up at the District 15 office, and asked him about "First Tuesdays". He told me that Carmen had thought up this wonderful program while at PS 6, and had set it up there very successfully. I asked him to send me the information, which he did.
On February 1, 2001 Carmen Farina became Superintendent of District 15 and left PS 6. As many of my friends wanted me to run for PTA President at PS 6, I decided to run. On April 24, 2001 I presented my program to the PS 6 community in the auditorium, and noticed Carmen entering the room. She started screaming that I had maligned her name, that no one should vote for me, that I was suing everyone at PS 6 and should never be allowed to run for any office, and other statements equally defamatory. I did not see anyone in the room breathing. Carmen sat down in the front row and glowered at me. I lost to Jane Gordan, who was removed early into the 2002-2003 school year by her own Board.
Carmen never wanted parents to be involved at PS 6, and was often shutting parents out of the school and the classrooms. She does not like School Leadership Teams, as she told us when the "Green Book" on SLT regulations came out, and she told the Executive Board "we are not going to do this." The SLT Bylaws that she wrote with the help of a few members of the Executive Board stated that there were "4 members of the PS 6 SLT: the Principal, the Assistant Principal, the PTA President and the PTA Vice-President. [The regulations are that SLTs must have between 10-17 members]. Article 6.2 of the SLT Bylaws states that " As Open Meetings Law does not, according to Central Board apply to SLTs,"and that parents would not be allowed to attend SLT meetings unless invited. When we parents questioned this policy, we heard that Carmen told the District 2 office that she had received a waiver from the rules. Ms. Gwen Hopkins, at the Board of Education Parent Engagement Office, thought this was very funny. She called me and told me that she heard the waiver claim, and that the one person who had the only copy of this waiver took it with them when they left the BOE. So no one knew where it was. Teachers we spoke to were very happy to see her leave. Below is an email from a retired special education teacher [parentadvocates.org is protecting her by not posting her name]:
"As the parent of a public school student and a retired special education teacher who worked in District 15 during Ms. Farina's tenure as superintendant, I strongly disagree with your take on her. She was autocratic and a whole language and constructivist math fanatic.She came into schools with a nasty attitude and a clipboard checklist and cared only about bulletin boards, word walls, desk arrangements and book leveling. It was Farina who set up the deliberately misleading introduction of the new curriculum at P.S. 172, claiming their remarkable success was due to "Month-by-Month Phonics" when the school had in fact been using Open Court, a highly structured reading program, at the time of the test results. She brought in Laura Kotch, an even colder, nastier proponent of lock-step whole language, who introduced the insidious Month-by-Month Phonics, designed to shut up those of us concerned with results while failing to teach decoding. [any] praise of Carmen Farina was disheartening to many of us who worked with her."
On April 30, 2004, the NY SUN published our letter:
Carmen Farina's Old School:
No one represents, in my opinion, all that is wrong with the New York City Department of Education better than the new acting deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, Carmen Farina. ['Farina's Old School Finds It hard To Match Her Results", Julia Levy, Page 1, April 23, 2004]. I am a former PS 6 parent who believes in transparency, accountability, respect for everyone, and honest reporting of statistics and test results. Carmen, unfortunately, seemed to be not interested in any of these.
She did not believe in School Leadership Teams, so she set up the PS 6 Team with 4 appointed people (the minimum allowed are 10, and all members are supposed to be elected) and wrote Bylaws which clearly opposed any parent involvement - Clause 6.2 of the PS 6 SLT Bylaws reads:
"By directive of the Central School Board, "open meetings" laws do not apply to SLTs, therefore uninvited guests will not be permitted to attend or participate in the meetings."
"Univited" guests are, of course, PS 6 parents, teachers, anyone outside the 4 people (who were the Principal, the Assistant Principal, the CSA representative and the PTA President). She pushed these Bylaws through Central by telling everyone that PS 6 had a waiver. No one ever found a copy.
Carmen, as she always does, retaliated. After leaving PS 6 and in the position of Superintendent of District 15, on April 24, 2001attended the PS 6 PTA meeting at which I spoke about running for PTA President. As soon as I finished my campaign speech she screamed that I should not be elected for undermining her, maligning her name, and other equally defamatory remarks to the 70 or so parents in attendance. No one who was in that room that evening ever forgot this outburst.
Carmen never told us where the Annenberg Challenge For the Arts money was. We saw that PS 6 had some arts programs, but our partner school, PS 198, did not seem to have any. She would not answer our questions. When we asked where the funds for PS 198 were, Carmen went on the attack, and threw the Arts Together Community Partnership, a parent-driven organization designed to help fund and publicize the arts at PS 6 when the Annenberg grant ended, into the garbage. She then accused us of interfering in the allocation of the Annenberg money by hiring and firing the dance teachers, a claim that was totally unfounded and ridiculous. We did stop asking questions, in fear of the welfare of our children at the school.
We were told by teachers that Carmen took the brightest kids randomly out of testing rooms to give them as much time as necessary to complete tests. We would compare notes after the tests to find out which children had been moved to another room.
Carmen stopped the PS 6 Gifted and Talented program, and to the present day parents of exceptionally bright children try to move them elsewhere. She implemented policies of "fuzzy" math and whole language to the extent that many teachers told us "their hands were tied",and "get instruction from a tutor". Scores at the school in math have gone down since she left.
Carmen gathers around her a group of loyal supporters who do not allow anyone to say anything uncomplimentary about her. Nothing anyone says outside of this clique is listened to or respected.
When I was in grade school I learned that history repeats itself. Carmen Farina as Deputy Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education is a step back into the dark ages of school reform where transparent budgets, people respecting the views and opinions of others, and accountability just dont exist.
And those "high scores" that PS 6 reports are not what they seem. Parents compared notes on how many of the brightest kids were taken out of the testing room and tested separately - presumably to give these kids all the time in the world, so that they could get perfect scores? These kids certainly did not have special needs or 504 accommodations. The scores themselves are suspect: this just in from our Math experts:
Keep in mind, Carmen Farina left PS 6 in January, 2001. In 2004 the National Academies reported that there is no scientific basis for Carmen's math programs.
~If one tracks cohorts of PS 6 kids (3rd graders in 1999, 4th graders in
2000 and 5th graders in 2001), the number who score in Level 4 in math drops
precipitously each year.
~In 2000, PS 6 had the greatest decline in District 2 in Performance Level 4
math achievement on the 4th grade test (28% pt drop!) - much greater than
any other schools'. Some schools' 4th grade Level 4 scores actually rose.
Districtwide, 4th grade Level 4 achievement dropped 6% pts that year.
Districtwide, 4th grade passing scores remained flat at 76% passing in 1999
~In 2001, PS 6 had the greatest decline in Performance Level 4 on the city
test (3rd and 5th grades) (23% pt drop!) - greater than any other school's
Level 4 declines, some schools' Level 4 scores rose. Districtwide, Level
4 scores on the city test dropped 6% pts (same as in 4th grade the year
before ) Districtwide city test passing scores dropped 3% pts, 2000: 61.2
~ There were nowhere near the precipitous drops out of Level 4 4th grade
scores (state test)that PS 6 showed (1999-2000) in the other TAG schools. In
the same year (2000-2001) PS 6 Level 4 declines were also highest among TAG
schools on the 3,5,6 grade test (citywide test) One TAG school's scores
improved slightly (PS 11) while the others showed some decline (following
the district trend), PS 124 and PS 130 came close to the level of PS 6
Founder and President, The E-Accountability Foundation
President, ArtsNexus and The Arts Together Community Partnership (thrown into the garbage by Carmen Farina May, 2000)
PS 6 School Leadership Team Bylaws written by Carmen Farina in 2000
NYC Deputy Chancellor Rewards Gifted, Privileged Kids in NYC Public Schools by Raising 4 Years of AP Grades
For more on Carmen Farina and District 2, go to www.nychold.com
False Claims of Special Education Successes Cloud the Bloomberg/Klein Reform
Despite Too Many Questions of Improprieties, Carmen Farina is Named Deputy Chancellor For the New York City DOE