Sunday, March 14, 2021

Farewell from the Chancellor

Dear Colleagues, 

Today is my last day serving as New York City’s Schools Chancellor, and I write to you to both say goodbye and to express my gratitude for each one of you. 
During the last three years, I have made about a million bucks, and haven’t paid a dime in rent. And honestly, my expense account has covered just about everything—travel, meals, donuts, unnatural acts—you name it. Your generosity and fortitude have surpassed my expectations.
We have been through unimaginably turbulent times together, and yet have achieved so much for our children. I don’t think anyone wants a laundry list, and honestly, I haven’t put a quarter in a laundry machine in years. Whether it’s shirts, underwear, suits, socks, ties, or whatever, they just appear cleaned and pressed. I don’t even know who does them. But yeah, you know, the children.
And, of course, together we took on the COVID-19 pandemic, completely reinventing what it meant to teach and learn in New York City’s public schools. I remember when you brought me 108,000 signatures asking that we close buildings. I said, hey, bring me 108,00 signatures of epidemiologists, because hey, my job was on the line and screw you all if that’s what it takes.

Every one of you, no matter the role you play, makes a difference in the lives of the City’s public school students. Please never forget that helping our school system reach its full potential and lifting up our children is not the job of one person. Unless you, of course, because that’s your job. Tomorrow I won’t have a job. I’ll take my million bucks and go elsewhere. Where? Wouldn’t you like to know?
There are so many experiences I will take with me, but I’d like to leave you with one that particularly drives home why we do what we do. In 2019, I had the opportunity to meet with students who were multilingual learners as part of a Title 3 summer program. A girl from an elementary school in Brooklyn shared with me that they had read a book about dreams. Their assignment was to write their dreams down on cards and put the cards inside  “dream boxes” they created. The idea was: If they write their dreams down, they’ll come true.
This little girl’s father had been detained in ICE custody in California. Her dream was to be reunited with her father in the land of the free. And she gave me her dream box and said, “You’re the Chancellor and I don’t want you to forget about me.”
So you see? I remember. Where’s the girl? Where’s her dad? Don’t ask me.
While it is hard to leave, I am confident that I am leaving you in excellent, experienced hands. I know that Chancellor Meisha Porter will have your backs while continuing to be a fierce warrior for our students and our schools. I mean, maybe she, unlike me, will stand up to the mayor when he does outlandish things like keeping schools fully open during a raging, deadly pandemic. You never know.

More than anything, I am proud to have served with you, and so proud of the strides we have made.  It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as your Chancellor. Don’t let the fact that I’m taking the money and running diminish that.  I will miss you deeply and I wish you all well. Hasta pronto…Until we meet again. But sit while you wait for that.

In unity, 


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