Latest News

From Power to Paperwork: New York City Principals Adjust to a Reined-In Role Under Carmen Fariña

David Baiz was disheartened.

He had turned in his annual comprehensive plan on how to improve the middle school where he was principal, Global Technology Preparatory in East Harlem. Now, New York City education department officials had reviewed the plan and offered feedback.

Baiz opened the officials’ comments expecting substantive suggestions about how to help his students, who faced many challenges. That’s not what he found.

“Some of their feedback is, like, ‘Misspelled this,’ ‘Space this out,’” Baiz said. “If it’s a formatting issue, a grammatical issue, why are we going through this feedback process?”

Baiz sees the experience as part of a pattern of micromanagement and misplaced priorities by education department officials since he became principal in 2013, the same year that Bill de Blasio was elected mayor and began reshaping the school system to align to his own vision.

Baiz isn’t the only principal to chafe under the de Blasio administration. While principals’ opinion of Chancellor Carmen Fariña started high, their satisfaction with her handling of school oversight has dropped by 10 points on a city survey since 2014. In more than a dozen interviews, principals told Chalkbeat that while the administration had brought some welcome changes to the city’s schools, it has also ramped up its scrutiny of their daily decisions and made it harder to get some of the help they need.

Part of Fariña’s goal in trying to rein in a disjointed system was to make it tougher for struggling principals to slip through the cracks. But for some principals, the shift to centralized decision-making — with newly empowered superintendents playing a leading role — has had unintended consequences.