cover image Tales Out of School: Joseph Fernandez's Crusade to Rescue American Education

Tales Out of School: Joseph Fernandez's Crusade to Rescue American Education

Joseph A. Fernandez. Little Brown and Company, $24.95 (278pp) ISBN 978-0-316-27918-5

The embattled chancellor of the New York City school system tells his story (with the aid of Underwood, a former writer for Sports Illustrated ) in a punchy style that reflects his hometown, streetwise origins. Born to Spanish-speaking parents in Harlem, Fernandez experienced early on the failures and inadequacies of schools. Shuttling between parochial and public schools, he joined for a time the street culture of drugs and gangs, before finding redemption in the military where he finally earned his high school diploma. His interest in mathematics whetted, he began, with a supportive wife and family, a process of continuous education that helped him achieve the American dream. In Florida, he started his career as a teacher, was promoted to principal then superintendent. As he tells it, he made his mark on the Dade County school system through his program of School Based Management--a program aimed at giving greater power to teachers, principals and parents, rather than to the educational bureaucracy. His apparent success there propelled him to his current position, ``the toughest job in American education.'' Fernandez is candid about many things, including his shaky tenure, but defensive about his programs and pragmatic approaches. Still, his is a lively, nondeferential story told from the front lines. Author tour. (Jan.)