Chancellor Fariña Appoints New Head of Family and Community Engagement, Redoubles Focus on Parental Engagement

  • Posted: Wed Aug 26, 2015 Updated: Mon Apr 23, 2018

Longtime Bronx Educator Yolanda Torres Appointed Executive Superintendent of FACE. Restructured Division to Develop and Increase Number of Parent Leaders, Build Stronger Community Ties

NEW YORK – Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña today announced the appointment of Yolanda Torres as Executive Superintendent of the Division of Family and Community Engagement (FACE). Torres will lead FACE’s renewed efforts to create welcoming environments for all families and develop stronger relationships between schools and their communities. As Executive Superintendent, Torres will focus on implementing the vision for FACE, deepening the connection between schools and communities, developing parent leaders, and helping families support learning in and outside of the classroom.

Torres will redesign FACE to better align with the Framework for Great Schools, and focus on the importance of strong family-community ties for student achievement through an emphasis on training and professional development, outreach and engagement, and parent leadership.

“Strengthening family and community ties is a top priority, and Yolanda Torres brings critical expertise,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “I know her work supporting hard-to-reach students and their families, her commitment to building strong partnerships with the entire school community, and her emphasis on developing parents as partners and community leaders will elevate the quality of FACE’s programs and services. I look forward to working closely with her to ensure that families feel valued and that there is a culture of trust throughout the system.”

“I have spent my career working at the intersection of schools and families, and I strongly believe in the power of community-building to increase academic achievement for our students – no matter the neighborhood they live in,” said Yolanda Torres,Executive Superintendent of FACE. “I am humbled by the opportunity to join FACE and I am excited to lead the efforts to make our schools more welcoming to families.”

Torres, a former public school parent and grandmother, is a South Bronx native and has worked as an educator in the Bronx for more than 30 years – most recently as Superintendent of Community School District 7. Torres began her education work in Puerto Rico, teaching English to middle school students. Throughout her career, she has focused on leveraging opportunities within the community through partnerships with colleges and community-based organizations. As principal at PS 226 in District 10, she was awarded a five-year grant for $1.3 million to support her innovative work serving English Language Learners and parents. 

During her tenure as a Bronx superintendent, Torres held bi-monthly parent workshops in the district office that provided families information on the Common Core Learning Standards, school discipline code, and school safety. Other trainings focused on helping parents develop their own goals and vision for their families. In addition, Torres provided parent coordinators extensive professional development and gave extra support to principals and teachers to implement the added 40 minutes each week of parent engagement in their schools.

“Yolanda’s door was always open to parents of Community School District 7. She encouraged families to get involved in their schools and attend district-wide workshops,” said Violeta Guevara, PTA President of MS/HS 223 in District 7. “I am excited that she will be leading the DOE’s efforts to develop parent leaders and strengthen family and community engagement across the city.”

“Building strong communities begins with building stronger schools and I am pleased that Yolanda will be at the helm of the city’s renewed focus on parent engagement,” said Luis Poveda, PTA President of PS 179 in District 7. “During her more than 30 years of experience, she has kept Bronx families informed and provided training opportunities for parent leaders.”

“Yolanda constantly kept parents well informed of what was happening in our district,” said Virginia Olivaria, PTA President of PS 25 in District 7. “She was always there for us and I am excited to work with her in this new capacity as she leads FACE.”

“This announcement on the reorganization of FACE is what we’ve been waiting for. It’s encouraging to see that Chancellor Fariña has placed at the helm a community leader with experience in grassroots parent organizing, and we look forward to working with Ms. Torres in this new capacity,” said Rashidah White, Co-Chair of the Education Council Consortium

"The Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF) is pleased to learn of the appointment of Yolanda Torres to head the newly structured FACE. We are encouraged to see the DOE emphasize the critical role that families play in our public school education. We support FACE's renewed commitment to strengthen the culture of engagement through training and professional development of principals and staff as well as support for parents to become partners and community leaders. Since 1986, CACF have been advocating on behalf of the Asian Pacific American (APA) community. Approximately 80% of APAs in NYC are not native-born, and many parents of APA children face language barriers and challenges navigating the school system. Parent engagement is a vital component of student success, especially for immigrant families. English Language Learners struggle to achieve proficiency on standardized tests as well as to graduate from high school, and we are hopeful that this new system will provide additional resources for our most vulnerable families,” said Sheelah Feinberg, Executive Director of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families. 

Chancellor Fariña has placed continued focus on the importance of parent and family engagement and this new effort will build on the many accomplishments of FACE. Jesse Mojica will continue the important work he has done to build parent leadership support and foster positive and collaborative relationships with our Community Education Councils (CECs). The result of that work was a highly successful CEC selection process this past school year. 

Beginning in Spring 2014, the Chancellor has hosted six parent conferences at Tweed Courthouse, educating more than 1,500 parents from across the City on grade-specific workshops on topics including reading to your child, pre-K activities for the home, preventing bullying, helping teens organize and prioritize, helping adolescents manage stress, and the Individualized Education Plan process. Chancellor Fariña will lead more citywide parent conferences targeting elementary, middle, and high school parents. 

As part of the teachers’ contract, the DOE has supported schools through 40 minutes of weekly time for educators to connect with families. Schools have hosted innovative, welcoming activities like a “homework diner” and “bilingual parent breakfast” where educators and parents share strategies over dinner and bilingual parents share their concerns in their native language.

All schools now hold four parent-teacher conferences during the evening each school year. Many schools have adopted the student-led parent-teacher conference model, enabling students to take ownership of their successes, articulate areas for improvement, and establish a clear focus on immediate and future goals.

In addition to parent-teacher conferences, each superintendent has designated a Family Support Coordinator to join the Family Leadership Coordinator (formerly known as District Family Advocate), ensuring two family and community engagement staff members in each superintendent’s office serving as dedicated contacts for families in the district. The Family Support Coordinator and Family Leadership Coordinator will work across the system to address parent issues and concerns. This new role will also allow Family Leadership Coordinator to focus on additional responsibilities critical to the community, including supporting parent leadership structures and building community partnerships. 

Elisa Alvarez will replace Yolanda Torres as acting superintendent of Community School District 7. Alvarez began her career more than 20 years ago as a special education bilingual teacher at PS 154 in the district. Alvarez became an Assistant Principal at KAPPA III in District 12 in 2005, and most recently served as the school’s principal since 2006.

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