Branding the de Blasio-Farina Vision of Education: Can the “New Guys” Create a Vision for the School System?

New administrations, whether in politics or business, attempt to brand themselves – attempt to set themselves apart from the administration they replaced.

“the process of creating a relationship or a connection between a company’s product and emotional perception of the customer for the purpose of building loyalty among customers… a fulfillment in customer expectations and consistent customer satisfaction”

Sometimes a simple phrase, FDR’s New Deal branded the new administration. For de Blasio the “tale of two cities” theme has resonated through his policy choices, from ending “stop and frisk,” to a “living wage,” more “affordable housing,” and, of course, ”Universal Pre-Kindergarten,” the campaign to embed the de Blasio brand.

Days after de Blasio took the oath of office the city restarted contract negotiations with the teachers union, removing the impediment of angry teachers and other city workers was crucial.

After Cuomo refused to grant NYC the right to raise taxes to fund PreK the State budget agreement provided adequate dollars for Universal Pre K, although the time frame to implement was short.

As the summer began, and six months into her chancellorship, the whispers started, when was the new administration at Tweed going to lay out its vision, what was going to change?

The old guard, the Bloomberg-Klein devotees worried, for good reason, everything they built would be dismantled, after all, that’s what the Bloomberg administration did; they trashed everything that proceeded.

The Bloomberg administration branded themselves, dismantling decentralization and creating mayoral control, the closing of scores of schools and the creation of hundreds of new schools, supporting new charter schools, the co-location of charter schools in public school building, the letter A to F School Report Cards, all policies, according to Bloomberg, improving a dysfunctional school system: he branded himself: Michael Bloomberg, the educational mayor.

Last week de Blasio fulfilled a campaign pledge, he changed the School Report Card from A to F letters grades to a four-page “Quality Snapshot” and a multiple page “Quality Guide” for staffers with new school descriptions, “exceeding, meeting, approaching or not meeting standards.” Schools, also, will no longer be ranked.

See sample Reports here:

Chalkbeat reports the criticism,

Groups that supported the previous administration and have been critical of Fariña called her speech a disappointment and said it failed to address head-on the city’s many struggling schools. Even people who praised the new evaluations said it was troubling that the city did not say how it will use the ratings to prop up low-performing schools.

Joseph Viteritti, a public policy professor at Hunter College, said the evaluation shift represents an improvement from the previous administration’s “top-down approach to reform.”

“Unfortunately,” he added, “it does not outline a real plan for what [this administration] intends to do with failing schools.”

Chancellor Farina is enormously popular with teachers, her praise of staffs, her emphasis on trust and collaboration, her refusal to close schools, and looked upon with suspicion by the Bloomberg crowd and the “reform” elites.

After all, didn’t they sharply increase graduation rates, close dysfunctional schools, challenge the union, and train dynamic young principals?

While the Bloomberg team was effective in branding themselves as educational innovators and reformers, the NY Post was in their pocket and the NY Daily News usually supportive, and, the NY Times occasionally critical, usually supportive. On the national scene Bloomberg was the education mayor: changing the direction of education in the city.

In reality, the credit recovery fraud, the packing of at-risk kids into schools targeted for closing, questionable marking of regents papers all cast doubt on the increases in graduation rates, and the appalling college and career readiness rates, the disastrous completion rates in community colleges all question the accuracy of the graduation rates.

de Blasio can’t wait a decade to assess the impact of pre-Kindergarten; Farina can’t wait a couple of years to see if reading and math scores jump…

de Blasio and Farina have to take ownership, to brand their approach, to convince the public that their vision of education is best for their children. And, if the vision is unclear, if the new vision looks like older visions, if the Post and the Daily News and elites and decision-makers and the political power structure lose confidence the entire administration can be in trouble.

6 responses to “Branding the de Blasio-Farina Vision of Education: Can the “New Guys” Create a Vision for the School System?

  1. Are you entirely sure that Farina is “enormously popular with teachers?” Aside from wanting to put “love” back in the classrooms, I would argue that she’s been a uniquely uncharismatic and ineffective leader who has taken nearly a year to put in place a small group of “reforms”–yes, she changed the school “grading system”, yes, she imposed a seven year teaching requirement on principals but what else besides talk? OSI and SCI still run amok, destroying innocent teachers, most of Tweed is still there from the Bloomberg days, she has announced no clear, new vision for the school system, she personally imposed the useless PD requirements into the new contract…I could go on.

    I predict that she will be pushed back into well-deserved retirement next year, that is if the Mayor gives a damn enough about what really goes on in he schools besides pre-K and protecting himself from Eva Moskowitz and her pack of wolves.


    • Teachers love Carmen, at every meeting they stand and cheer … don’t expect her to back away from teacher discipline, last-in, first-out and tenure protections will continue to be under attack … if you want to be elected mayor (or governor) or president, what position would garner most public support?


  2. Fresh air is relative. If you’ve been living with and smelling only garbage for 12 years even gasoline fumes will smell good. If all Farina and her so-called new crew can tell new teachers is to stay out of the Teachers’ Room for fear they’ll actually hear something that rings true, she is already a lost anachronism. Can you imagine telling a young doctor to stay away from and ignore more seasoned practitioners because they might have a bad attitude (well earned and a long time coming) toward the hospital administration? Want better schools? Try better kids.


    • Nine months into his term the Mayor still has not asked for the resignations of the top 300 “executives” at DOE. Most of them hired by Joel Klein.
      The mayor should send a signal how committed he is by by removing Kathleen Grimm.


  3. Peter:

    You’re wrong about Carmen Farina. In the high achieving school I’m currently assigned to she is not well respected and many think she should go back into retirement.

    Maybe you should go into the schools and found that out for yourself. If you read my blog on the disappointing Chancellor, you will see how awful she is.


  4. For the first time in eons there is an educator in the top seat. Why can’t this forum be used to suggesst real solutions, name real problems and create the conduit to the teaching profession that is so needed. Why does it sound so much like those unfortunate grumpy sessions in the teacher’s room that Ms. Farina aluded to. Seasoned teachers, new teachers and teachers who are happy to grow– why not think-talk-chat-write about what works and how it can be supported by an educator. This is not a ‘branding’ issue it is about real progress. Education is not simply a new improved classic soft drink in a brand new bottle. One of the worst things about the last 12 years is that it was too often treated that way. We are all part of the process and deserve to treat our brains with the respect that is due them.


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