‘The Right Choice for this Historic Moment’: David Banks’s Appointment to NYC Schools Chancellor Welcomed in Several Circles
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Eric Adams, the Mayor-elect of New York City, has appointed his trusted advisor, David Banks, to be in charge of the nation’s largest school system as it strives to recover from the disruption to learning caused by the unprecedented effects of the pandemic.
Banks, who founded the Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx in 2004, a college preparatory school aimed at improving the graduation rates and outcomes of students of color, is now the President and CEO of the Eagle Academy Foundation. The Foundation supports a network of public schools that has expanded to six schools, with one in each borough of New York City and another in Newark, New Jersey.
Standing in front of his own elementary school in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, Banks graciously accepted the appointment as chancellor, a position widely regarded as the second most significant role in education after the U.S. Secretary of Education. He took to Twitter to express his humility and gratitude, acknowledging the role that the school system played in shaping his own life and acknowledging the parents, students, educators, administrators, support staff, and educational partners who contribute to the system’s success.
Banks’s selection signifies a departure from the educational philosophy of outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose close association with the United Federation of Teachers and hostility towards charter schools characterized his two-term tenure. In contrast, both Adams and Banks have expressed support for charter schools, which are public schools that operate independently and are typically non-union.
In response to Banks’s appointment, Eva Moskowitz, the founder of Success Academy, a prominent charter school network and a vocal critic of de Blasio, remarked that Banks deeply cares for the well-being of students and educators and will go to great lengths to ensure that children have access to outstanding schools, regardless of whether they are district-run or charter schools.
For his first deputy, Banks chose Daniel Weisberg, a labor strategist who frequently clashed with the teachers’ union under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. This appointment may indicate the new administration’s commitment to addressing the issue of underperforming teachers and ineffective administrators.
Chris Cerf, who served as a DOE deputy chancellor during the Bloomberg administration, commented that Banks is the right choice for this pivotal moment in history. Cerf highlighted Banks’s understanding of the complex nature of the Department of Education and emphasized that Banks’s deep belief in the core purpose of public education is what makes him ideal for the position. Cerf, a former New Jersey state education commissioner and Newark schools superintendent, emphasized Banks’s commitment to ensuring equal opportunities for all children, regardless of their circumstances or background.
Paula White, the executive director of Educators for Excellence New York, a teacher advocacy group, also expressed enthusiasm about Banks’s appointment. White noted that throughout his career, Banks has been an advocate for underserved children and has been ahead of his time in his holistic approach to educating Black and brown students. White explained that many educators fall into two categories: those who acknowledge the challenges faced by Black and brown children and provide them with social-emotional support while adjusting their expectations, and those who adopt a strict approach and leave students to confront their challenges on their own. White stated that Banks does not fit into either camp, highlighting his unique perspective on education.
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Banks’s appointment comes after almost two years of disruptions caused by the pandemic. This included extensive discussions with union leaders regarding school reopenings, as well as debates on mask and vaccine mandates. The district also experienced a significant decline in enrollment, as some families opted for private schools or homeschooling.
In a recent tweet, Adams hinted at upcoming changes in the education system. While details remain undisclosed, Adams acknowledged the opportunity to address long-standing inequalities that hinder children’s progress.
The city’s schools are facing numerous challenges exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. The achievement and opportunity gaps have widened, particularly impacting disadvantaged children, students of color, English learners, and disabled students.
Additionally, an alarming number of New York City school children, over 101,000, faced unstable housing situations during the 2020-21 school year. This marks a 42 percent increase since the beginning of the decade, according to Advocates for Children of New York.
Cerf believes that Banks will prioritize providing students with career training, which is crucial for their future success. One of Banks’s key goals is to expand opportunities for children who might otherwise remain trapped in poverty.
Cerf stated, "He understands the significant impact early childhood experiences have on a child’s learning trajectory." Banks also expressed his commitment to considering the desires of parents when making major decisions, ensuring community support.
Natasha Capers, the director of the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice, considers Banks’s appointment a historic moment. She noted that this is the first time a Black New York City mayor has selected a Black chancellor. Capers believes that Banks will continue the Department of Education’s efforts to promote equity, as demonstrated by its plans to develop a culturally responsive curriculum.
Banks’s collaboration with Scholastic on the Rising Voices Library, a collection of books featuring inspiring narratives and young men of color as protagonists, showcases his commitment to diverse literature. He believes that all students should have access to literature that reflects their experiences and identities.
Replacing Meisha Ross Porter, the first Black woman to lead New York City public schools, Banks aims to lead the recovery of 1,600 schools impacted by the pandemic. Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, expressed confidence in Banks’s dedication to children and a desire to collaborate.
As a Queens teacher with 15 years of experience, Nicole Brennan is uncertain about Banks’s ability to help her second-graders. She emphasized the need for more instructional time with students and less administrative paperwork.
Title: Exploring NYC’s New Education Leader’s Vision for the Nation’s Premier School District
Description: Join us in this captivating video where NYC’s new school superintendent shares his inspiring vision for America’s leading school district.
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