When Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced last month that Phil Weinberg, a Brooklyn principal, would head the Department of Education’s reconstituted Division of Teaching and Learning, she also named one of his deputies.
This week, Weinberg let the department know that he had finished fleshing out his leadership team. In addition to Anna Commitante, the longtime Fariña colleague who will direct curriculum and teacher training work, he also picked two other deputies, according to a letter he sent on Thursday.
Douglas Knecht, who had been running one of the department’s five “clusters” of school support networks, will oversee the department’s plan to identify schools that can be models of good instruction and operations. Knecht’s cluster of about 250 schools included many in District 2 and District 15, where Fariña worked, as well as many in the Bronx and elsewhere in Brooklyn.
Before leading the cluster, Knecht was the department’s executive director for academic quality, heading programs such as the Middle School Quality Initiative that he will supervise again. He began his career in the city’s schools as a science teacher at a transfer high school, Humanities Preparatory Academy.
Joanna Cannon, already a top official at Tweed Courthouse, will head the department’s teacher evaluation work, including supervising the testing currently required by law to generate components of teachers’ ratings. Cannon had been the chief strategic officer for the Division of Talent, Labor, and Innovation, which had been separate from the academics division under Bloomberg. Her move signals that the department now sees teacher evaluation as part of its instructional priorities.
Weinberg is also retaining four Bloomberg-era officials in their previous roles overseeing testing, principal leadership, and other initiatives.
“I am excited to partner with such a strong team,” Weinberg says in the letter, posted below. “I ask for your continued patience as we gain clarity about how our teams’ work will fit together.”
I am writing with an important announcement about the Division of Teaching and Learning. To begin, I’d like to thank you for your patience during this time of transition. I know that the ongoing uncertainty has been challenging, and you’ve handled it with flexibility, grace, and optimism. I am also truly thankful to you for welcoming me into your meetings and teaching me about your work. I have been impressed by the thoughtfulness and caliber of the work you’ve undertaken, and look forward to building on that work together.
I am writing today to introduce you to new members of my leadership team:
§ Douglas Knecht, formerly the leader of Cluster 1, will join our division to oversee citywide model development. In this role, his priority will be to lead efforts to identify best practices for school improvement around the City through setting up school demonstration sites, postsecondary readiness initiatives, the Middle School Quality Initiative, and school quality work including the Quality Review.
§ Anna Commitante, formerly a deputy cluster leader of curriculum, instruction, and professional development, will direct citywide curriculum and professional development work. Her team will provide educators with instructional support which empowers them to ensure that all of our students can meet the high bar of the Common Core Learning Standards.
§ Joanna Cannon, formerly chief strategic officer for the Division of Talent, Labor, and Innovation, will join our leadership team to oversee talent initiatives. She will lead the implementation of Advance, the teacher evaluation and development system. Her portfolio will include our work around teacher effectiveness, Measures of Student Learning, and related research.
I am also pleased to acknowledge existing team members who will continue to lead key aspects of our division’s work:
§ Marina Cofield will continue to direct the leadership team, overseeing a leadership pipeline that provides opportunities to build educators’ capacity for teacher leader, school leader, and advanced leadership roles.
§ Emily Weiss will continue to oversee all performance workstreams, including assessment, academic policy and systems, and research, accountability, and data.
§ Rachel Feinberg will continue to manage implementation and operations of workstreams to support our division’s initiatives.
§ Jocelyn Alter (cc’ed) will continue to serve as chief of staff for the division, and along with her current team, will provide strategic support across the division.
I am excited to partner with such a strong team. I ask for your continued patience as we gain clarity about how our teams’ work will fit together.
Shortly, you will receive a calendar invitation for a brief informal gathering where I look forward to sharing my thoughts and answering any questions you may have.
In the meantime, should you have any questions about these updates, please feel free to reach out to your manager, Jocelyn, or me. Thank you again for your continued patience and unwavering dedication to serving our schools.
Division of Teaching & Learning