Eric Adams makes picks with charter ties for schools governance panel

Mayor Eric Adams appointed a top charter school administrator and a slew of close allies to the Department of Education’s oversight board Tuesday to a mixed response.

While proponents of school choice welcomed several of the new faces, charter foes from DOE watchdogs to union representation questioned the picks with strong ties to the privately operated schools that receive public funds.

“It’s concerning that so many of Adams’ appointees have ties to charter schools, as they have interests contrary to our public schools,” said Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters.

“Charters take valuable space from our public schools and more than $2.6 billion a year from their funding,” she said.

Close to half of the city’s 271 charter schools are at least partially in buildings owned or leased by the department, according to the New York City Charter School Center.

The criticism came as several hours after publicly naming the new panelists, reports revealed that one appointee — Staten Island pastor Kathlyn Barrett-Layne — had a history of anti-gay views and writings, prompting the administration to ask for her resignation.

“We were unaware of these writings and we’ve asked her to resign,” said Amaris Cockfield, deputy press secretary for the mayor.

Schools Chancellor David Banks applauded Mayor Eric Adams’ appointees to the city education panel.
Matthew McDermott

A few of the new members of the Panel for Educational Policy include Dr. Vasthi Acosta, the executive director of Amber Charter Schools, and Anthony Lopez, a non-profit executive who was previously CEO of the Dr. Richard Izquierdo Health & Science Charter School in the Bronx. At least one member, Karina Taveras, is the parent of a high school charter student.

The city’s teachers union had other ideas for who should be on the governing body.

“It is the UFT’s position that the more public school parents serve on the PEP, the more effective the panel will be,” said Dick Riley, press secretary of the UFT.

Class Size Matters organization's founder and Executive Director, Leonie Haimson, speaks out with NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm ab out opting out of the ELA tests in Jackson Heights, Queens on Tuesday April 14, 2015.
Leonie Haimson argued charter schools drain “more than $2.6 billion a year” from their public counterparts in New York City.
Kristy Leibowitz

The 15-member panel includes nine mayoral appointees, while the rest are chosen by borough presidents or Community Education Councils.

Most participated in last month’s meeting, not including Acosta who was named after Joe Belluck, the chairs the SUNY board that authorizes charters, backed out following criticism he’d be biased toward those schools.

“I like the fact that there are also a couple of people from the charter world, families from charter schools,” said Yiatin Chu, the co-president for Parent Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum & Education. “I think that’s a balance that we did not have in the prior administration.”

Gregory Faulkner previously worked for former City Council Member Fernando Cabrera.
Gregory Faulkner previously worked for former City Council Member Fernando Cabrera.
Councilman Fernando Carbrera/Facebook
Dr. Vasthi Acosta
Dr. Vasthi Acosta, a charter schools executive, was appointed to the Department of Education’s oversight board.

“I’m a parent advocate, so I want parents to have the best choice for their children,” she said.

The city released the names of the new appointees one day before the panel’s next scheduled meeting on Wednesday.

“The newly appointed members bring with them a diverse range of experiences spanning school administration, education policy, the private sector, and, most importantly, firsthand knowledge as parents,” read a mayor’s office press release.

Also on the list was Tom Allon, the publisher of the news organization City and State and father of Jonah Allon, the deputy press officer to the mayor.

Yiatin Chu had previously called out former Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza for being biased against Asian American students.
Yiatin Chu had previously called out former Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza for being biased against Asian American students.
William C. Lopez

Gregory Faulkner — who has experience as an administrator, coordinator and counselor — was chief of staff to former City Council Member Fernando Cabrera, a controversial Adams appointee who received pushback for past anti-LGBTQ comments.

“Parent and community engagement is an essential component of my vision for education in New York City, and that is why I’m excited to begin what I know will be an effective and fruitful partnership with the panel members announced today,” said Adams.

The panel replaced the former Board of Education in the early 2000s to approve education department policies, budgetary items, contracts and more.

The first meeting under the Adams administration was delayed earlier this year because not enough members were appointed.

“The best decisions are made when everyone is at the table, and this panel represents invaluable experience that will be critical as we reimagine our schools,” said Schools Chancellor David Banks. “I look forward to partnering with every new PEP member in the work of improving the educational outcomes of our youngest New Yorkers.”

Adams also appointed retired principal Dr. Angela Green, former Community Education Council president Alan Ong and public school parent Gladys Ward to the panel.