As part of his city wide listening tour, New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza attended a student town hall at Francis Lewis High School Monday where he introduced himself to students and asked what their main concerns were as part of one of the city’s largest and most successful schools.
Carranza joined about 50 students at the Fresh Meadows schools gymnasium, located at 58-20 Utopia Parkway for a Q&A session.
He was chosen to replace former Chancellor Carmen Farina, but only after Miami-Dade schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho bailed on the job.
One student asked about school safety and what can be done to avoid violence in schools.
Carranza said the traditional methods being used, such as school officers, are effective, but he said the best security system is an environment where students are encouraged to speak up when they hear or see something suspicious. He said when students feel empowered to own their security and that of their peers, nothing is better.
“I spent a lot of my career in school buildings and I will tell you this,” Carranza said. “There’s nothing that happens in school that students don’t know about. The most effective school security system is all of you. Why? Because if you have an environment in your school where if you see something, suspect something, read something on Facebook or Instagram that you think is crazy and feel safe enough telling an adult and you know you’ll be kept anonymous and you know the adult is going to actually follow up, that is by far the most effective security system, better than cameras, metal detector, random searches or sniffing dogs.”
When one student asked about getting more funding for arts programs, Carranza said he agreed the arts should be a priority.
“We have to value arts as not something we do in addition to English and math,” he said, “but as a core component of school curriculum. Would we ever imagine having school and not studying English? There are some schools that have less money than others. The good news is in all five boroughs, there are arts organizations that are doing great work partnering with schools and helping with funding. I want every student in New York City public schools to have an experience with the arts. Arts can be anything from instruments, singing, dancing, panting, drawing — you name it. As long as you’re able to use creativity, that’s arts.”
Carranza also talked about testing. He said that while Regents exams are an important measure to evaluate students, teachers should not be base the curriculum solely on the exam and their job should be to educate, not just get students to pass test.
Carranza also said he was working with NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill to look for ways to improve relationships between students and school safety officers.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart