Volume 16, Number 9 | July 29–Aug. 4, 2003


Harwayne retires three weeks after promotion

By Elizabeth O’Brien

Shelley Harwayne
Downtown schools chief will be replaced by a former curriculum director and Park Slope principal.
Parents and community members expressed surprise and disappointment at the news last Friday that Shelley Harwayne, the former head of local school District 2, would immediately retire her new post as superintendent of Region 9.

In January, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein tapped Harwayne to lead Region 9, a combination of the former School Districts 1, 2, 4, and 7. With 169 schools, Region 9 is the city’s largest, and Harwayne was granted oversight based on her 35 years of experience and her national reputation.

The city’s 10 regional superintendents assumed their posts on July 1. So it came as a shock to many that Harwayne chose to retire after just three weeks at her new job and with only six weeks to go before the new school year.

“What?” said Madelyn Wils, chairperson of Community Board 1, when told the news. “I’m really sorry to hear this about Shelley.”

“I’m stunned along with everyone else,” said Judy Levine, the mother of two boys who attend P.S. 150 in Tribeca.

In the midst of major changes to the city’s public school system, many local parents took comfort in the fact that Shelley Harwayne remained a constant they could trust. Her departure left some wondering where they would turn for guidance.

Peter Heaney, who had just become a local instructional supervisor in charge of a cluster of schools including P.S. 234 in Tribeca, was named as Harwayne’s successor. Before becoming a local supervisor, Heaney served as director of curriculum and instruction at the central Department of Education and before that he was a principal for 10 years at P.S. 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Heaney did not return two calls for comment. The Department of Education news release did not name a successor to Heaney, and an agency spokesperson did not return a call by press time.

Harwayne did not return a call on Friday. A receptionist at the Region 9 office said on Monday that Harwayne no longer worked there.

Harwayne told The New York Times that she was retiring to spend more time with her elderly mother and her 10-month-old granddaughter, as well as to deal with her own health issues.

“For me, it’s taking care of my health and my mom,” Harwayne said to the Times. “You can’t look back and say, ‘I should have done that.’ You do that when you have to do that.”

Some speculated that frustration with the mayor’s schools shakeup could have also contributed to Harwayne’s sudden departure. An elementary school teacher in the former District 1 who requested anonymity wondered if Harwayne decided she didn’t want to take on Region 9, which stretches from Lower Manhattan through the Upper East Side and parts of the West Side, and into the former District 7 in the South Bronx.

“District 2 is District 2 and District 7 is District 7 — they’re two different worlds,” said the instructor, who added that he had been looking forward to learning from Harwayne. “It’s possible she took a trip up there and she realized what she had been working with is very different.”

A Department of Education news release said that Harwayne will later serve in an advisory role to the Chancellor and Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, Diana Lam, on literacy and professional development.



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