While Chancellor Richard Carranza plans to wipe hundreds of millions out of NYC classrooms, his little-known yoga tsar – the school system’s first “mindfulness director” – makes nearly $ 200,000 a year while organizing educator retreats in the Berkshires .
Seeking to expand yoga and meditation to students, staff, and leaders, Barnaby Spring, the chief yogi at the Department of Education, believes contemplative practices and body flexing postures like the downward facing dog are as important as academics.
“This is specifically designed to bring children’s socio-emotional needs to a place where it’s as important, if not more important, than academic learning,” Spring told Mindful.org in October.
A former teacher and principal, Spring, 59, was selected for the role by First Deputy Chancellor Cheryl Watson-Harris, with assistance from Carranza.
“The Chancellor is familiar with the practice of meditation and mindfulness,” Spring told Mindful.org. “You understand the cost-effectiveness of it almost as a preventive health initiative.”
Spring’s salary is $ 183,781, but he raised $ 194,947 last year as a customer for special assignments.
One of the first steps Spring took as mindfulness director was to partner with the Kripalu Yoga and Health Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, which Forbes named “The World’s Best Meditation Retreat” in November.
The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.Alamy Stock Photo
Spring helped ensure that top DOE administrators, including directors, managers, superintendents, and alternates, received Leadership Resiliency Training at the Berkshires retreat.
Kripalu is surrounded by 100 hectares and is located on a hill with wonderful views of forests, valleys and Lake Mahkeenac. The center offers courses as well as massages and facials, overnight accommodation and a café with salads and a “Buddha Bar” with legumes, grains and vegetables.
“In the beginning we believed this was an opportunity for our superintendents and our senior superintendents to learn a little more about yoga and mindfulness for themselves,” said Spring.
Brooklyn City President Eric Adams, a yoga practitioner and ally of Watson-Harris, awarded the DOE a US $ 111,000 scholarship in April 2019 to train Brooklyn educators in yoga and mindfulness.
The DOE said it spent $ 57,075 from that grant to send 30 administrators to Kripalu at a cost of $ 1,900 each. Kripalu offered free courses to 480 other employees, officials said.
City calculator records show DOE schools spent $ 101,000 at the Kripalu Center in the 2018-19 school year and $ 18,000 that school year.
The DOE has since launched the yoga and mindfulness teacher preparation program and touted it as the first certified yoga and mindfulness school in the country. The DOE has not indicated how many teachers have attended courses to date.
School Chancellor Richard Carranza (center) meditates during a meeting with Brooklyn City President Eric Adams (left).Twitter
Kimberly Watkins, president of Parents’ Advisory Community Education Council 3, which covers the Upper West Side and South Harlem, said she has never heard of Spring or its title.
“I didn’t know there was such a person. It’s crazy, ”she said. “I don’t currently endorse spending on mindfulness leaders. It’s a luxury. We shouldn’t spend money on yoga knowing that our schools will be more underfunded than they already were. “
The introduction of yoga and meditation in city schools became increasingly popular under former Chancellor Carmen Fariña, who agreed that stretching and calm thinking could reduce stress and help children focus.
Powerful collaboration with this diverse group of NYCDOE executives who combine mindfulness / yoga with SEL initiatives via Rise / Kripalu !! pic.twitter.com/tzNcheemNE
– Barnaby Spring (@BarnabySpring) July 20, 2017
Spring was an actor before becoming an educator. In 1994 he wrote and starred in a one-act play based on his experiences between the ages of 10 and 18 that lives in Father Flanagan’s Boy’s Town, the home for abused and neglected children in Nebraska that was created by the 1938 film starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney became famous.
After teaching for about six years, Spring became headmaster in Manhattan and Brooklyn transfer schools for failing students, but was eventually added to a pool of “redundant” administrators without permanent employment. He was sent to work in a field office in Brooklyn, where Watson-Harris was in charge before becoming Carranza’s deputy. They hit it off, sources said.
Spring’s appointment was not publicly announced.
While the DOE has an office on wellness that deals with physical and health programs, Spring remains in the office of the first deputy chancellor. He did not return a call for comment.
Barnaby Spring and First Vice Chancellor Cheryl Watson-HarrisFacebook