Carmen Fariña is Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, the largest school district in the United States, serving 1.1 million students in over 1,800 schools. Over the past 50 years, she has worked in virtually every capacity, from teacher and principal to district superintendent and deputy chancellor, distinguishing herself as an innovative educator committed to helping students, teachers, and principals excel. As Chancellor—a role she assumed in January 2014—her priorities include meeting the needs of the whole child; engaging parents and families; ensuring collaboration, trust, and accountability within the system; and supporting rigorous Common-Core based standards to raise student achievement.
During her first full year as Chancellor, Fariña oversaw the historic expansion of pre-kindergarten to more than 53,000 four-year-olds; expanded the Community School model to provide more wrap-around services to students and families; created a stand-alone, cabinet-level department to support English Language Learners; and increased funding for arts education and after-school programs for middle school students. She also developed new leadership models, transforming the role of superintendents to better support principals; launched the Framework for Great Schools, a holistic research-based approach to school improvement; and created Learning Partners and Showcase Schools, demonstration sites of excellence that allow schools and educators to work collaboratively to strengthen their practices.
A Brooklyn native, Fariña began her career as a classroom teacher specializing in social studies. She spent 22 years at Brooklyn elementary school P.S. 29, where she used reading and writing to boost students’ literacy skills and connect class work to real-world events, key components of what would later become Making Connections, an award-winning program that the then Board of Education replicated citywide.
Fariña went on to become one of New York City’s most successful principal and superintendent. Under her leadership, P.S. 6 in Manhattan, a good school, rose from 76th on the citywide reading test to among the top three, becoming one of the City’s best public elementary schools. She achieved this remarkable turnaround by visiting each classroom daily, encouraging teachers to share best practices, and enhancing staff training. During this time, she was also an adjunct professor at Bank Street College: P.S. 6 served as a model site for prospective principals, hosting more than 500 visitors a year.
In 2001, Fariña was elected Community Superintendent of Brooklyn’s District 15, and earned accolades for transforming a deeply divided school community by working collegially with administrators, parents, and teachers. She later served as Superintendent of Region 8.
From 2004 to 2006, Fariña served as Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning at the Department of Education, where she invested $40 million to expand programs for middle school students, including Saturday classes, organizational and study skills workshops, and parent counseling. She also improved services for students with disabilities.
Prior to becoming Chancellor, Fariña worked as a consultant in the City’s schools, particularly assisting middle school principals.
A daughter of Spanish immigrants, Fariña was the first person in her family to graduate from college. She holds a Bachelor of Science from New York University and three master’s degrees from Brooklyn College (Bilingual Education), Fordham University (Gifted/Arts Education), and Pace University (Administration and Supervision). Fariña is co-author, with Laura Kotch, of A School Leader’s Guide to Excellence: Collaborating Our Way to Better Schools (Heinemann, 2008). She is the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Sloan Public Service Award (1989), presented annually to exemplary civil servants.
The mother of two adult daughters and proud grandmother of three young boys, she still lives in Brooklyn with her husband of nearly 50 years.