After an open search, the education department has tapped a Queens superintendent to oversee teaching and learning for the city’s public schools.
Lawrence Pendergast, the executive superintendent of Queens North, will become the new deputy chief academic officer of teaching and learning on October 15. Pendergast will replace Phil Weinberg, who held that position under two chancellors and who announced in June that he would be stepping down.
In his role, Pendergast will be overseeing efforts to improve instruction in the classroom and creating “system-wide strategies” to strengthen culturally responsive education across schools — an initiative that has drawn a mix of support and backlash from the community. Culturally responsive education is meant to fold students’ backgrounds, such as their cultural and racial experiences, into instruction.
Unlike Weinberg, who before joining the central office served for many years as a teacher and principal at a high-performing school in Brooklyn, Pendergast has worked in various positions over his 24 years with the education department. He’s been an instructional specialist, a teacher, an assistant principal, and a leader of two Manhattan schools: He served as the founding principal of Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction, and as the executive principal of Leadership and Public Service High School.
In recent years, Pendergast has overseen the support centers that schools can tap when they need help with anything from training staff to getting their instructional needs met. He spent four years overseeing such a center in the Bronx and another three years leading a center in Queens before he became executive superintendent in 2018.
In a letter to the department, Chief Academic Officer Linda Chen touted Pendergast’s record of supporting schools “whether it’s developing professional learning plans so schools can meet the needs of our students, creating curriculum, building principal pipelines, developing teachers, or developing strategies to expand access to post-secondary resources.” She said she was confident that Pendergast’s would work to improve student outcomes throughout the city.
As executive superintendent, he oversees 168 schools in Queens that serve about 148,000 students.
In a statement, Pendergast thanked “Queens North students, teachers, principals, superintendents, parents, and parent leaders for their partnership,” and said he was proud of the work that they’ve accomplished together.
The education department is conducting a search to find a new Queens North executive superintendent.