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After months-long search, New York City mayor will name next schools chief ‘very soon,’ officials say

Chancellor Carmen Fariña is set to step down within the next few weeks.
Chancellor Carmen Fariña is set to step down within the next few weeks.
Stephanie Snyder

New York City will get a new schools chancellor “very soon,” according to city officials who say the new education chief will be a permanent appointment, not an interim pick.

Speculation that Mayor Bill de Blasio might be forced to appoint a temporary replacement for outgoing Chancellor Carmen Fariña has mounted in recent weeks, according to people close to the process. During that time, de Blasio’s closed-doors search has dragged on as Fariña has publicly prepared to step down.

But on Wednesday, a City Hall official pushed back against the suggestion that the search had stalled.

Instead, the official said a permanent chancellor — not an interim leader — would be announced “very soon.” And if an interim chief is needed between the time Fariña leaves and the new person starts, it would only be for a brief period of just a few weeks or even days, the official said.

The suggestion that a new chancellor might need some time after being appointed to take office suggests that de Blasio is likely bringing in someone from outside the city education department, rather than elevating a current official.

The news that de Blasio will soon name Fariña’s successor comes after a secretive national search that began months before she said publicly in December that she would soon step down.

De Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, had chosen a new chancellor each time he announced that his schools chief was resigning. In contrast, de Blasio committed to a wide-ranging, extended search.

Yet the months since have fueled speculation that de Blasio has struggled to convince someone to take over the nation’s largest school system — despite the job’s high profile and prestige. A top contender — Barbara Jenkins, the superintendent of Orange County Public Schools in Florida — has voiced concerns about the position, Chalkbeat reported.

Observers have floated a number of reasons for the drawn-out search, from de Blasio’s strict job requirements (he wants a former educator who fully endorses his progressive worldview) to the limitations of serving a second-term mayor with an established education agenda.

Meanwhile, Fariña made clear this month that she plans to retire in the coming weeks, and has been conducting a farewell tour full of exit interviews and valedictory op-eds.

Education insiders pointed to Fariña’s second-in-command, Senior Deputy Chancellor Dorita Gibson, as a logical interim chief. Gibson is a former educator who, like Fariña, has held many positions in the city’s school system, including principal and superintendent. However, she has maintained a low profile outside of the department, rarely making public appearances or filling in for Fariña.

“Some people have thought they’ve been grooming [Gibson] all along,” one insider said, “but they never really brought her out.”

While the City Hall official said that any interim chancellor would serve only briefly and would be appointed after a permanent chancellor is named, the official would not comment on who the interim leader might be.

Alex Zimmerman contributed reporting

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