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Who We Are »
Betsy Combier

Help Us to Continue to Help Others »
Email: betsy.combier@gmail.com

 
The E-Accountability Foundation announces the

'A for Accountability' Award

to those who are willing to whistleblow unjust, misleading, or false actions and claims of the politico-educational complex in order to bring about educational reform in favor of children of all races, intellectual ability and economic status. They ask questions that need to be asked, such as "where is the money?" and "Why does it have to be this way?" and they never give up. These people have withstood adversity and have held those who seem not to believe in honesty, integrity and compassion accountable for their actions. The winners of our "A" work to expose wrong-doing not for themselves, but for others - total strangers - for the "Greater Good"of the community and, by their actions, exemplify courage and self-less passion. They are parent advocates. We salute you.

Winners of the "A":

Johnnie Mae Allen
David Possner
Dee Alpert
Aaron Carr
Harris Lirtzman
Hipolito Colon
Jim Calantjis
Larry Fisher
The Giraffe Project and Giraffe Heroes' Program
Jimmy Kilpatrick and George Scott
Zach Kopplin
Matthew LaClair
Wangari Maathai
Erich Martel
Steve Orel, in memoriam, Interversity, and The World of Opportunity
Marla Ruzicka, in Memoriam
Nancy Swan
Bob Witanek
Peyton Wolcott
[ More Details » ]
 
Press Release: NYC Chancellor Richard Carranza Appoints New Deputy Chancellors, Chief Academic Officer and Executive Superintendents
"The Executive Superintendents and Chief Academic Officer will start on September 5, 2018 and support schools as they start the new school year. These new appointments will further advance the Mayor and Chancellor’s Equity and Excellence for All agenda to ensure that, by 2026, 80 percent of students graduate high school on time and two-thirds of graduates are college and career ready." Skeptics make note of the added $2.5 million to the NYC Department of Education budget.
          
   Richard Carranza   
CHANCELLOR CARRANZA ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENT OF LINDA P. CHEN AS CHIEF ACADEMIC OFFICER AND NAMES NEW EXECUTIVE SUPERINTENDENTS

The nine Executive Superintendents will streamline supports, bring resources closer to schools, and create a clear line of accountability from each classroom to the Chancellor

NEW YORK – Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza today announced the appointment of Dr. Linda Chen as Chief Academic Officer and also named the nine Executive Superintendents who will oversee the community and high school superintendents and Field Support Centers in their districts and ensure schools and families are served efficiently and effectively.

“I’m excited to bring these proven experts on board and I’m confident they are ready to hit the ground running and move our school system forward,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “We’re focused on supporting and empowering school communities to achieve equity and excellence for every student, and I know that these are the right leaders to help us build a world-class education system.”

The new Chief Academic Officer will unify and streamline instructional supports – including professional development and curricular resources and materials – to make rigorous teaching accessible to all learners, including students with disabilities and English Language Learners. The nine Executive Superintendents will provide greater alignment between superintendents and Field Support Centers to expand our work to support school principals, educators, students and families. The CAO and nine Executive Superintendents are:

Dr. Linda P. Chen, Chief Academic Officer

Dr. Linda P. Chen will oversee instructional supports for all learners and manage the Divisions of Teaching and Learning, Special Education, and English Language Learners. Chen previously served as Chief Academic Officer of Baltimore City Public Schools, Deputy Chief Academic Officer of Boston Public Schools, and Assistant Superintendent and Deputy Chief of Teaching and Learning in the School District of Philadelphia. She currently serves as Vice President, Engagement and Implementation at Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). Chen started school speaking very limited English and brings a deep knowledge of serving English Language Learners and students with disabilities to her position. Prior to joining the School District of Philadelphia, Chen was principal of PS 165 in Manhattan, literacy supervisor in Queens, and taught elementary school at PS 163 in Manhattan.

“I’m excited to return to New York City public schools as Chief Academic Officer and be part of the Mayor and Chancellor’s bold Equity and Excellence for All agenda,” saidDr. Linda P. Chen. “I’m looking forward to working with our great New York City educators and hearing about what’s working and where we can improve. Together, we’ll ensure that the work we do at a central level supports our schools and provides all our students with the rich academic experiences they deserve.”

(From Editor Betsy Combier:

We found this article on Google:
Banished by the School, Beloved by Its Parents
By ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS, APRIL 17, 2005

https://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/17/nyregion/banished-by-the-school-beloved-by-its-parents.html
As the principal put it in a formal disciplinary letter, the assistant principal had "failed to attend to a life-threatening emergency." He had ignored the needs of an unconscious child in a classroom. Instead, he had chosen to do the hokeypokey and the Macarena with 120 kindergartners. It seemed an open-and-shut case.
Except for one thing. The word in the halls of Public School 165 on the Upper West Side was very different. In a "Rashomon"-like twist, parents, teachers, secretaries and custodians all defended "Señor Howard," as they called him.
The conflicting narratives reveal the often yawning gulf between the rule-bound, corporate-style management of schools these days, and the more nuanced view on the ground. To listen to the city's Department of Education, the school system is defined by regional offices, local instructional superintendents and strict chains of command. To the people closer to the ground, a place like P.S. 165, on West 109th Street near Amsterdam Avenue, is like a family, dependent on an intricate network of human relationships to function smoothly.
Most of the facts about this episode are not in dispute. On Jan. 25, in a first-grade special education classroom, a boy knocked a classmate named Clarence to the ground, rendering him unconscious. The class was being led by an inexperienced teacher who had been having problems maintaining order. Before the fight, Clarence's mother had complained to the principal that her child was being bullied.
The principal, Linda Chen, was away at a conference, but someone in the main office called 911, and the school nurse rushed to the class. Meanwhile, a secretary went downstairs to find Howard Matza, the longtime assistant principal, one of whose many jobs it was to oversee hundreds of children in the cafeteria and on the playground because of complaints that the school aides were not able to keep order.

Mr. Matza told the secretary to send Fabayo McIntosh, a math coach, to the classroom, because he thought that she could get there faster and that he should stay with the 120 kindergartners he was supervising. The math coach hurried to the classroom; the mother arrived soon after and accompanied her son to the hospital.
A month later, on Feb. 28, when parents and teachers returned from a weeklong winter break, they were mystified to find Mr. Matza gone. Teachers began wearing buttons with the letters WH -- for "Where's Howard?" -- until the principal ordered that they be removed.

It turned out that Mr. Matza had been removed for "dereliction of duty," as Ms. Chen put it in the disciplinary letter. He was sitting idly in a regional office while the Education Department was deciding what to do with him. (He was still there last week, and he said he was still confident he had done the right thing.) On March 11, parents sent a letter to their instructional superintendent, Roser Salavert, demanding that Mr. Matza be reinstated. When that request went nowhere, they sought help from Eva Moskowitz, chairwoman of the City Council's Education Committee.
Ten days ago, Ms. Moskowitz called a meeting at P.S. 165 to hear parents' concerns. About 30 teachers sat together wearing black, as if in mourning. Some 60 or 70 parents filled the front of the auditorium, many with children in tow. The Department of Education sent two high-ranking officials, Dr. Salavert and Dan McCray, a lawyer.
Ms. Chen, the principal, was there too, sitting in a front row with her union representative. But despite heckling from the audience, she never spoke. Her silence, some parents said, was telling.
Last year, Mr. Matza was the unofficial first choice of a search committee of parents and educators to become principal of the school, but he withdrew his candidacy. Ms. Chen, a teacher and literacy coach, was appointed over the committee's objections. But many parents said they found her cold and autocratic. They complained that she never greeted them at the door. Teachers said that she scolded them for small infractions like missing deadlines. P.S. 165 is a dual-language school (English and Spanish), but Ms. Chen does not speak Spanish. (Her second language is Chinese.)
One mother, Diane Lanier, took the microphone to suggest that if Mr. Matza had left the lunchroom and something bad had happened there, he would have been blamed. Had Mr. Matza broken any rules? Ms. Moskowitz asked. Mr. McCray, the lawyer, said he didn't know, but added that the bottom line was that "Mr. Matza did not personally take charge of a situation in which a child was unconscious." As for Clarence, happily he was back in school the next day.
COPING E-mail: amh@nytimes.com)

Recy Benjamin Dunn, Executive Superintendent for Affinity Schools

Recy Benjamin Dunn most recently served as Chief Operations and Growth Officer at YES Prep Public Schools in Houston. In New York City, he served as regional director for the nonprofit New Leaders and led major initiatives within the DOE as Executive Director of the Office of Early Childhood Education and later the Office of Charter Schools. Prior to his work in New York City, Dunn also held critical roles in Prince George’s County Public Schools and the District of Columbia Public Schools.

(From Betsy Combier:
Recy Benjamin Dunn, Chief Operating Officer
Member of the YES Prep Team Since 2014
As Chief Operating Officer, Recy leads system-wide operations, district partnerships and growth strategy. Recy formerly served as the Senior Executive Director for Cities at New Leaders, a national nonprofit that develops transformational school leaders. He managed and supported all city executive directors across eight program sites nationally. Recy filled numerous roles at school districts, including the New York City Department of Education where he was the Executive Director of the Charter Schools Office, leading a team responsible for coordinating a portfolio of 136 charter schools. Recy also served as Executive Director of Early Childhood at the NYCDOE, managing early childhood initiatives citywide with a focus on Universal Prekindergarten. Previously, he worked at Prince George's County Public Schools in Maryland and before that completed The Broad Residency in Urban Education while at the District of Columbia Public Schools. Prior to his education experience, Recy worked in the public and private sector in several organizations. Recy has an MBA and an MA in Education from Stanford, and undergraduate degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. Additionally, he completed his School District Leadership certification program at Bank Street College of Education.)


Barbara Freeman, Executive Superintendent for Brooklyn South, Districts 17, 18, 20, 21, and 22

Barbara Freeman has served as superintendent of district 13 in Brooklyn since 2011, leading the district to increased student performance in Math and ELA. She has served at the DOE for over 30 years, beginning as an early childhood teacher and director, and later working as assistant principal, and then principal of the Don Pedro Albizu Campos School.

Tim Lisante, Executive Superintendent for Transfer Schools, District 79, and Adult and Continuing Education

Tim Lisante began his career as a teacher and assistant principal at Alfred E. Smith Vocational High School, before becoming principal at Island Academy on Rikers Island. He then served as a local instructional superintendent, and Deputy Superintendent in the Office of Adult and Continuing Education. Since 2011, he has been superintendent of District 79, New York City’s Alternative Schools District.

Anthony Lodico, Executive Superintendent for Staten Island, District 31

Anthony Lodico began his professional career as an English and Drama teacher at Port Richmond High School. He later served as assistant principal of Port Richmond High School, principal of Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, and superintendent of high schools in the Bronx and Manhattan. He has been superintendent for District 31 and Staten Island high schools since 2014, where he oversees 69 schools and 3 Pre-K centers.

Lawrence Pendergast, Executive Superintendent for Queens North, Districts 24-26 and 30

Lawrence Pendergast has served as a teacher, educational coach, instructional specialist, assistant principal, principal, and network leader. He was founding principal of Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction in Manhattan, and executive principal of Leadership and Public Service High School. He has been the Executive Director of the Queens North Field Support Center since 2015, supporting 168 schools.

Marisol Rosales, Executive Superintendent for Manhattan, Districts 1-6

Marisol Rosales began her career as a physical education teacher, and later became an assistant principal and principal before becoming a network leader. She served as principal of Bedford Stuyvesant Preparatory Academy, and has been superintendent of Manhattan High Schools since 2012, where she currently oversees 47 high schools. She also served as Executive Director of Leadership in the Office of Leadership at the DOE central office.

Meisha Ross Porter, Executive Superintendent for the Bronx, Districts 7-12

Meisha Ross Porter served as a long-time principal and assistant principal of The Bronx School for Law, Government, and Justice, a school she helped found in the 1990’s. She has been superintendent of District 11 in the Bronx since 2015, where she oversees 45 schools and four pre-k centers. In her role as Superintendent, Ross Porter has been invested in deepening school leaders’ equity lens and building collaborative practices across schools.

Andre Spencer, Executive Superintendent for Queens South, Districts 27-29

Andre Spencer previously served as a regional superintendent in the Houston Independent School District, and a network team leader in Baltimore Public Schools. He served in the US Army and began his teaching career in Baltimore where he worked as a science teacher, assistant principal and principal. He most recently served as superintendent of schools for Harrison School District Two district in Colorado, from 2013 to 2018.

Karen Watts, Executive Superintendent for Brooklyn North, Districts 13-16, 19, 23, and 32

Karen Watts was born in Guyana and began teaching there at the age of 16. She later served as a high school science teacher in New York City, before becoming principal at Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Manhattan, and then ACORN High School for Social Justice, now the Brooklyn School for Law and Technology, in Brooklyn. She has been the superintendent of Brooklyn North high schools since 2010.

The Executive Superintendents and Chief Academic Officer will start on September 5, 2018 and support schools as they start the new school year. These new appointments will further advance the Mayor and Chancellor’s Equity and Excellence for All agenda to ensure that, by 2026, 80 percent of students graduate high school on time and two-thirds of graduates are college and career ready.

The Equity and Excellence for All agenda is building a pathway to success in college and careers for all students. Our students are starting school earlier, with free, full-day, high-quality education for three-year-olds and four-year-olds through 3-K for All and Pre-K for All; and our schools are strengthening foundational skills and instruction earlier, with Universal Literacy and Algebra for All. Our schools are also offering students more challenging, hands-on, college and career-aligned coursework, as Computer Science for All brings 21st-century computer science instruction to every school, and AP for All works to give all high school students access to at least five Advanced Placement courses. Along the way, our schools are providing students and families additional support through College Access for All, Single Shepherd, and investment in Community Schools. Efforts to create more diverse and inclusive classrooms are central to this pathway.

###

Contact: Chancellor’s Press Office (212) 374-5141

Press Release June 27, 2018:

CHANCELLOR CARRANZA ANNOUNCES STREAMLINED SUPPORT AND LEADERSHIP STRUCTURE FOR NEW YORK CITY SCHOOLS

Superintendents and Field Support Centers will be overseen by nine Executive Superintendents who will report to the First Deputy Chancellor

New Leadership Team includes a realigned structure and newly created Chief Academic Officer and Deputy Chancellor positions


NEW YORK – Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza today announced a new streamlined support system for New York City’s 1,800 schools and his Leadership Team for the Department. The changes create a clear line of accountability from every classroom to the Chancellor, and better align resources and supports for schools to further the Mayor and Chancellor’s Equity and Excellence for All agenda. These changes will bring resources closer to schools and simplify supports for principals, allowing them to focus on the day-to-day operations of their schools.

The Chancellor updated the structure based on findings from his listening tour this spring, which included visiting 62 schools and hearing from thousands of students, teachers, principals, parents, and community leaders across all five boroughs. The Chancellor released his listening tour report, “Moving Toward a More Equitable School System," today and it is now available online.

“As I’ve visited schools across the City and spoken to students, families, and educators, I’ve heard about how we can improve our structures to better serve our students in the classroom, and we’re going to do just that with a realigned system that supports strong principals and strong schools,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “I’m working closely with my leadership team to put these reforms into action, and look forward to sharing these improvements with students, families, and educators throughout the summer.”

SCHOOL SUPPORT STRUCTURE

To better align supervision and supports for every school, Superintendents and Field Support Center Executive Directors will now report to nine Executive Superintendents, who will be overseen by the First Deputy Chancellor. The new support and supervision system builds on the current structure in which strong superintendents supervise principals, and Field Support Centers provide targeted resources to schools.

The updated structure will have a direct, positive impact on school principals and the students, and families they serve. School principals are currently supervised by superintendents and receive support from Field Support Centers. The new system will support greater alignment between superintendents and Field Support Centers, with a localized Executive Superintendent directly and efficiently overseeing a small group of superintendents and one Field Support Center. This alignment will ensure that they are collaborating to best serve principals and students.

The Executive Superintendent positions offer increased capacity to help superintendents and Field Support Centers work together to serve schools efficiently and effectively. These leaders will be in place before the start of the 2018-19 school year. The hiring process for the newly created Executive Superintendent roles will begin immediately and the DOE is conducting a national search. A link to the job posting is available here.

The Executive Superintendents will include:

Executive Superintendent for the Bronx (Districts 7-12), Executive Superintendent for Brooklyn North (Districts 13-16, 19, 23, and 32), Executive Superintendent for Brooklyn South (Districts 17-18 and 20-22), Executive Superintendent for Manhattan (Districts 1-6), Executive Superintendent for Queens North (Districts 24-26 and 30), Executive Superintendent for Queens South (Districts 27-29), and Executive Superintendent for Staten Island. Each of these Executive Superintendents will oversee both community superintendents and high school superintendents in their districts, as well as the Field Support Center serving their districts.

A citywide Executive Superintendent for Affinity Schools will oversee the school superintendent and Field Support Center serving Affinity Schools. An Executive Superintendent for Transfer Schools, District 79, Adult and Continuing Education, and Alternate Learning Centers will oversee the school superintendents serving those school types and work closely with the Field Support Centers serving them.

CHANCELLOR’S LEADERSHIP TEAM

Structure

The new Senior Leadership Team structure will have a direct, positive impact on schools, students, and families. Each member of the Senior Leadership Team will oversee a cohesive group of offices and series of initiatives in order to bring together resources, streamline investments in schools, and execute key priorities. The organizational chart is available here.

Appointment of Cheryl Watson-Harris as First Deputy Chancellor

Chancellor Carranza announced the appointment of Cheryl Watson-Harris as First Deputy Chancellor. In this newly created role, Watson-Harris will manage the Executive Superintendents, and will lead the support and supervision system and its alignment to the instructional vision of the DOE. Watson-Harris most recently served as Senior Executive Director of the Office of Field Support since 2017. She is a New York City native and public school graduate who started her teaching career in 1993 at Brooklyn’s PS 81, served as a principal in Boston for 15 years, and was a Network Superintendent for Boston Public Schools from 2013 to 2015. She rejoined the DOE in 2015 as the first Executive Director of the Brooklyn South Field Support Center.

“As a New York City public school graduate, educator and parent, I am so excited to take on this role serving our 1.1 million students,” said First Deputy Chancellor Cheryl Watson-Harris. “This is a tremendous opportunity to work with talented superintendents, Field Support Center Executive Directors, principals, and educators across the City. Together, we can strengthen our systems and structures to better support students and make our Equity and Excellence for All vision a reality.”

Appointment of LaShawn Robinson as Deputy Chancellor of School Climate & Wellness

Chancellor Carranza announced the appointment of LaShawn Robinson as Deputy Chancellor for School Climate & Wellness. LaShawn Robinson most recently served as the Executive Superintendent of the Office of Equity and Access, leading Advanced Placement for All, DREAM-Specialized High Schools Institute and College Access for All-Middle School. Robinson previously served as Superintendent of Transfer Schools from 2014 to 2016, Executive Director of the Advanced Placement Expansion Initiative from 2013 to 2014, and Principal of Brownsville Academy from 2008 to 2013.

The Deputy Chancellor for School Climate & Wellness will develop a vision for and oversee school climate and social-emotional supports that foster equity and success for New York City’s 1.1 million students. The new portfolio will bring together parts of this work that were previously in different divisions in order to increase coherence: the Office of Safety and Youth Development, the Office of Counseling Support Programs, the Office of Equity and Access, the Office of Community Schools, the Office of Health & Wellness, and the Office of School Health.

“I am extremely committed to this work because of the powerful impact it can have on students’ lives, and I look forward to increasing that impact and supporting our outstanding educators across New York City in this position,” said LaShawn Robinson, Deputy Chancellor of School Climate & Wellness. “Together, we can work towards strengthening our school communities to ensure equitable outcomes for students as we support them on the path to college, careers, and success.”

Appointment of Karin Goldmark as Deputy Chancellor of School Planning & Development

Chancellor Carranza announced the appointment of Karin Goldmark as Deputy Chancellor for School Planning & Development. Goldmark is a New York City native and public school graduate who most recently served as Senior Education Advisor to First Deputy Mayors Dean Fuleihan and Anthony Shorris since 2014. She previously worked at the Department of Education as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Chancellor from 2001 to 2003 and Executive Director for New Initiatives from 2009 to 2010. She also served as Executive Director of College Summit New York from 2006 to 2009, and as Vice President of the NYC Leadership Academy from 2003 to 2005.

The Deputy Chancellor for School Planning & Development position will bring together oversight of space planning and management, including the development of new schools, school re-designs, and coordination with charter as well as nonpublic schools. The Deputy Chancellor will oversee the Office of Space Planning, the Office of District Planning, the Office of School Design & Charter Partnerships, the Education Construction Fund, the Office of Nonpublic Schools, and the Office of Impartial Hearings.

“I am excited to work with Chancellor Carranza and talented New York City educators and staff to ensure thoughtful planning and productive partnerships that support great schools for all of New York City’s students,” said Karin Goldmark, Deputy Chancellor of School Planning & Development. “This is an important part of our commitment to achieving the goals of Equity and Excellence for All, and I’m ready to get to work.”

Creation of Chief Academic Officer Position

The new Chief Academic Officer will streamline and ensure comprehensive instructional supports – including professional development and curricular resources and materials – for all learners, including students with disabilities and English Language Learners. By placing Teaching & Learning, Special Education, and English Language Learner instruction together, the DOE is demonstrating its commitment to inclusion and to an instructional vision that considers all learners as part of one unified system. A link to the job posting is available here.

Phil Weinberg will serve as Deputy Chief Academic Officer for the Division of Teaching & Learning and Corinne Rello-Anselmi will serve as Deputy Chief Academic Officer of Special Education and Student Services. Mariano Guzmán, currently Senior Advisor to the Chancellor, will oversee the Division of English Language Learners and Student Support while a national search is conducted for a Deputy Chief Academic Officer for that division.

Creation of Deputy Chancellor of Community Empowerment, Partnerships & Communications Position

The Deputy Chancellor for Community Empowerment, Partnerships, & Communications will be responsible for overseeing and strengthening communication with families, as this newly created role brings the Division of Family and Community Engagement together with the Office of Communications and Media Relations and the Office of External Affairs. The three offices will work closely together with the goal of increasing family and community awareness and empowerment. A link to the job posting is available here.

Josh Wallack Continuing as Deputy Chancellor of Early Education and Student Enrollment

Deputy Chancellor for Early Education and Student Enrollment Josh Wallack will continue to oversee the development and implementation of birth-to-eight initiatives, including 3-K for All, Pre-K for All, the EarlyLearn transition, and Universal Literacy. The role will also continue to include oversight of the Office of Student Enrollment and school diversity initiatives.

Ursulina Ramirez Continuing as Chief Operating Officer

Chief Operating Officer Ursulina Ramirez will continue in her role leading and aligning the work of operational offices within the DOE, as well as the development and implementation of the department's strategic initiatives. Her portfolio will now include additional operations offices including: the Division of Finance; Division of Human Capital; Labor Relations; Office of General Counsel; Division of Instructional & Information Technology; and School Operations, including transportation, school food, school facilities, and the Public School Athletic League (PSAL). Ramirez, Chief of Staff Edie Sharp, and their teams will continue to provide direct support to the Chancellor.

TRANSITION
The Chancellor’s office will oversee a transition committee to assist in the implementation of the updated support and leadership structure and ensure that it is fully in place for the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. The improved system will further advance the Mayor and Chancellor’s Equity and Excellence for All agenda to ensure that, by 2026, 80 percent of students graduate high school on time and two-thirds of graduates are college-ready.

Together, the Equity and Excellence for All agenda is building a pathway to success in college and careers for all students. Our students are starting school earlier, with free, full-day, high-quality education for three-year-olds and four-year-olds through 3-K for All and Pre-K for All; and our schools are strengthening foundational skills and instruction earlier, with Universal Literacy and Algebra for All. Our schools are also offering students more challenging, hands-on, college and career-aligned coursework, as Computer Science for All brings 21st-century computer science instruction to every school, and AP for All works to give all high school students access to at least five Advanced Placement courses. Along the way, our schools are providing students and families additional support through College Access for All, Single Shepherd, and investment in Community Schools. Efforts to create more diverse and inclusive classrooms are central to this pathway.
###
Contact: Chancellor’s Press Office (212) 374-5141

Yes Prep

YES Prep's BOLD Commitment to Equity

In our BOLD Commitment to EQUITY series, members of (YES Prep's) Executive Leadership Team, share how their work helps to eliminate educational inequity to advance social justice. In this installment, we interviewed Chief Financial Officer Millicent Chancellor (top left), Chief of Staff Carmen Darville (top right), and Chief Operating Officer Recy Benjamin Dunn (bottom left) about how their individual identities and backgrounds guide their work, their responsibilities as Black leaders in executive seats, and collaboration.

How does your individual identity and background guide your work?

Carmen Darville (CRD)– My identity as a Black woman committed to service through education is the lens through which I view my work. As the youngest daughter of a school counselor and an attorney called to become a pastor, service and education were deeply embedded in my formative experiences. My mother was bussed across town to integrate schools on the south side of Chicago and my dad was the first Black partner at a predominantly Jewish law firm. Despite being the only Black girl in my class until fourth grade and my parents’ historical experiences, my identity as a Black woman still was not crystalized. I remember vividly seeing Ann Best, former Executive Director of Teach For America, and realizing that if someone that looked like me could lead in such an impactful capacity, I could lead too. While the emulation of my mother and women like Ann were undoubtedly foundational in my own identity development, it became an unwavering priority when we had our daughter and I realized that I would be her primary source of influence as she matures and grapples with her own identity. I hope to be relatable in that same way for others – I hope they can look at me and see possibilities for themselves. Fun fact: When I was a teacher, they were always confused about “what I was.” My students said they, “had never met a Black person who looked or sounded like me.” Maybe it was the eyes, maybe it was the name, maybe it was because I could understand Spanish, but it allowed me to be a utility player as multiple student groups thought I was “one of them.”

Recy Benjamin Dunn (RBD) – My dad is Black and my mom is white. They were married in Galveston in 1969, two years after the Loving decision that struck down the anti-miscegenation law in Texas and 15 other states. Back then, there were not a lot of mixed marriages. My dad was a student in the first Black class to integrate Ball High School in Galveston, the school my mom attended. The prejudice and mistreatment they endured was despicable. When I was born, my parents moved to the suburbs of northwest Houston, but it was not much better. I remember from an early age the stares from people when we are out in public as a family. Stares of wonder, disdain, and disgust. I remember the nigger jokes told by my childhood friends, who would afterwards say, “No offense.” I remember the labels of Yellowbone, Redbone, Mulatto, Halfbreed, Zebra, Oreo, High-Yellow, Mixed, Mutt, and some choice expletives. This early experience of not fitting in with Black folks or white folks sparked a fire whose embers smolder to this day. I bring that edge and my unapologetic desire for large scale systemic change to my work. Because of this history, I want to fight for Black and Brown folks and underrepresented voices across this country.

Millicent Chancellor (MYC) – My siblings and I were the first to go to college in our family and we grew up in a very segregated town in the south that is still largely segregated today. When my parents made the decision to send my oldest brother and me to the ‘white’ schools before ‘full’ integration, it was very controversial, and I often felt like we lived in two worlds: one black and one white. In my community, the most educated black people were teachers and they were highly respected. And although, my childhood aspiration was to become a teacher, I chose a different career track to pursue the area of finance and accounting in Corporate America in hopes of escaping the small-town attitudes that I faced while growing up and making life easier for my parents and me. I encountered many affronts being the first black woman to reach new management levels at both PWC and Halliburton, but I loved the work of accounting and finance and the ability to help other people succeed along the way. After leaving a long career in Corporate America, I volunteered for several organizations to fulfill a desire to help people in need and use my talent to ‘give back’. When an opportunity to support the mission of YES Prep doing something I loved for decades came about, I leaped at the opportunity. While I enjoyed my previous work in Corporate America, it has been more enjoyable to have an opportunity to do the same work to help underserved children have and achieve dreams of success.

As Black leaders sitting in executive seats, what additional responsibilities do you have?

CRD – In my role, I try to use my voice on behalf of the people we serve – our students, their families, and the staff who make it all happen. Fundamentally, the chair that I sit in is not meant for just me. I sit in that chair trying to capture the voice of authentic Blackness, unashamed femininity, professional mothers, and the ‘against all odds’ students. It is my responsibility to make room for others including teammates not present whom I represent and those who will come after me and are currently sitting in our classrooms. I live with the double consciousness DuBois describes as I try to be true to myself while representing the voices and beliefs of so many others who don’t have the opportunity to be in the room.

RBD – I feel the need to be a positive role model and reach into the organization to mentor and provide access to other people of color. A Black CEO of a non-profit once told me that we (Black people) were never going to be able to network our way into the room. I take that to mean that, while we continue to gain access and seats at the decision-making table, those who have power will often find ways to hold onto that power or to have a conversation at another table we are not a part of. As a Black leader, I strive to call this out when I see it and advocate for justice in all spaces. As MLK said in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, “Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. …We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it is demanded by the oppressed.” I believe it is my duty to demand freedom and to blow up the status quo.

MYC – In Corporate America, I felt part of my role was to make certain that I represented my race very well and prove to white Corporate America that the stereotypes that were held about black Americans and other non-whites were false. Consequently, I felt I worked harder, built the most diverse teams, fought for pay equality of my team and in many cases produced more than my counterparts along the way. It was a long time before I realized that it wasn’t my responsibility to prove the stereotypes were wrong, but it was Corporate America’s responsibility to see the error of their ways. As a Black leader in an organization serving the underserved, I am compelled to ensure that I use my financial talent to put people and systems in place that will ensure that YES has a secure future poised for growth. It is my responsibility to ensure that YES has the ability to serve the underserved for as long as the need exists, especially for kids who look like me and are trying to overcome the same obstacles that someone else helped me to overcome along the way.

How does your experience differ when you are not the only Black leader at the table?

CRD – Working with other unashamed Black leaders provides an opportunity to share the responsibilities of advocacy, consciousness, and education. I never have to speak for all Black people and can maneuver as an individual–not a token. When I have had the privilege of sitting beside others in executive spaces that share elements of my identity, it adds a sense of community and an unspoken understanding.

RBD – Being a leader can be lonely. Being a Black leader in education is especially lonely. Seeing Carmen or Millicent sitting across the table gives me hope and makes me feel happy to not be alone. I appreciate that we have the opportunity to speak our own truths and for our white colleagues to have the opportunity to hear that Blackness is not a monolithic identity. My experience has shown me that the generation before us was connected by a common struggle. Leaders in civic organizations, schools and churches often came up together and knew one another in ways that this generation doesn’t seem to. I hope there are ways we can recreate some of that ethos from days past—an ethos that is about connection to a Black community, a common agenda, and a common path toward social justice. If we know other Black leaders, we know we are not alone and can find ways to check for each another.

MYC – My experience at YES differs on many levels. The primary difference is working with a team of like-minded individuals whose sole purpose is to serve the underserved. Having other like-minded Black leaders at the table is icing on the cake. I am humbled by their boldness and unwavering dedication and although I am the gray-haired leader, I learn so much from their approach to our mission and their work.

How are you engaged in local, state, and national Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work, given your roles at YES?

CRD – I collaborate with other Charter Management Organizational (CMO) leaders locally and nationally by comparing resources and lessons from our experiences. When possible, I try to attend events to engage more deeply with the DEI thought-leaders of color and our allies who are maneuvering successfully through dominant spaces. The DEI work is complex and unending, so the opportunity to shorten my educational journey through the lessons of others is energizing. The energy I gain from learning more about the work across the landscape assists me in positioning myself to be a more empathetic, better-educated, and thoughtful practitioner of the work.

RBD – I collaborate with other leaders in K12 education on the work of DEI. I have tried to be a voice of truth in those conversations. While I am excited about the ever-developing work of DEI, it strikes me that many of these conversations didn’t start in earnest until some of the founders and leaders of charters and related organizations began to have school-aged children. I feel conflicted as I find myself wondering about the motives for such changes. It seems that we as an education reform movement began having conversations about diversity issues when the largely white leaders and voices in education reform decided they were ready to have such conversations. I remain hopeful that we will continue to challenge privilege and power as we drive for more diversity, equity and inclusion. I am excited to see positive momentum with the work by Jeanine Fukuda at Portland Public Schools, Sonia Park at the Diverse Charter Schools Coalition, and Carmita Semaan, founder of Surge Institute.

MYC – I meet often with my counterparts at other CMOs who are also serving predominantly black and brown children. We readily share best practices and together explore solutions to problems that we face because there is so much work to be done and because we can do it faster and in larger ways when we engage with one another. I often chuckle at the fact that in Corporate America, I would never have been able to reach out to may counterparts who served the same customers and delivered the same products because we were hardcore competitors (not to mention there were laws against certain interactions). It is so refreshing to not have to re-invent the wheel so to speak and to discuss with my CMO counterparts uncharted solutions to issues that we often face together. There is so much to be done in the area of finance and accounting, most of which happens behind the scene, to ensure YES’ students of today and tomorrow receive an education that will give them a leg up in a world that has yet to value diversity, equity and inclusion for all people regardless of race, sex or color.

 
© 2003 The E-Accountability Foundation