When schools chancellor Carmen Fariña announced her retirement last December, she said she planned to leave in “the coming months.”
Now, her departure date is clearer: Fariña will officially step down in the next month or so, the New York Times first reported and a city spokeswoman confirmed Friday.
That timeline could suggest City Hall is close to naming Fariña’s successor. But the fast-approaching departure date also raises the possibility that the nation’s largest school system could wind up without a permanent leader — at least temporarily.
“[Fariña] has told me that she would like to leave sooner rather than later,” said Dorothy Siegel, a close friend of the chancellor’s, who added that Fariña would not necessarily stay until her replacement is named. “She is pleased with what she has done.”
There are some signs that Mayor Bill de Blasio is struggling to swiftly find a replacement. If the city chooses an outside candidate, it could be difficult to install a replacement in within a month, especially if that person is leading another school system.
And despite overtures from City Hall, at least one candidate, Barbara Jenkins, superintendent of Orange County Public Schools in Florida, has voiced concerns about taking the job, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the search. Randi Weingarten, the influential leader of the American Federation of Teachers and a valuable supporter of Mayor Bill de Blasio, told Chalkbeat she might not be the right fit.
Moreover, there are other challenges that explain why the search could take longer than expected. De Blasio has signaled he wants someone to carry out his existing agenda, which could make it difficult to coax a high-profile candidate to run one of the most complicated education systems in the country without much of an opportunity to make a personal imprint. And while the position is prestigious, New York City also pays far less than even smaller school systems.
Earlier in the week, Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a City Hall spokeswoman, pushed back against the idea that the city is having trouble filling the position.
“We have no issues recruiting for the head of the largest school system in the country,” she said.