NEW YORK — Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, who runs a public school system that was thrown into chaos nearly a year ago with the start of the pandemic, is stepping down.
In his place, Mayor Bill de Blasio has appointed Meisha Porter, currently the executive superintendent for the Bronx. She is a 20-year Education Department employee who would be the first Black woman to lead the nation’s largest school district.
(Incoming Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter. Photo provided by NYC Mayor's Office)
Carranza’s resignation, nearly three years after he took the job, comes after an extraordinary year for the city’s schools, which switched to remote learning last March as the coronavirus pandemic raged through the city. New York was the first — and still remains among the only — large urban districts to reopen its school buildings to some students last October, although that reopening has come in phases, fits and starts. Just yesterday, middle schools reopened for the second time, and high schools remain closed.
"Over these three years, Richard Carranza has kept us moving forward— strong academic performance, great strides for fairness and equality,” said de Blasio during a press conference Friday. “He's proven that we can and must do both.
The mayor noted the chancellor’s history leading other school systems, including Houston, after the turmoil of Hurricane Harvey.
“I'm sure at the time he thought that would be the last major disaster he would face as a school leader he and all of us could not have imagined this pandemic," he said.
Carranza said he's leaving so he can take some time to process a devastating year, choking up as he revealed that several family members and close childhood friends have died from the coronavirus.
“Make no mistake—I am a New Yorker, while not by birth, by choice,” he said. “A New Yorker who has lost 11 family and close childhood friends to this pandemic and a New Yorker who, quite frankly, needs to take time to grieve."
His tenure in New York City was not without controversy, even from the very start: Carranza got the job in 2018 after Miami Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, the mayor’s first choice, very publicly turned it down.
Carranza has been a more outspoken critic of the city’s network of selective middle and high schools and gifted-and-talented classes than the mayor who appointed him and who, ultimately, runs the school system. Those schools, which use either tests or screen students for academics or things like attendance and lateness, are often mostly white and Asian — serving few Hispanic and Black children, even though the majority of city school students are Hispanic or Black.
The chancellor’s criticism of those schools and classes led to strong pushback from their supporters, especially in some Asian American communities — and to him being branded a “racist” by protesters who dogged him at events and meetings, calling for his firing.
In remarks delivered this morning, he highlighted accomplishments — including a one-year suspension of those academic screens, which he describes as making “true progress in dismantling structures and policies that are decades of entrenched racism.”
He also cited rising graduation and college enrollment lengths; new limits on the length of suspensions; and increasing the focus on the mental of children.
(Newly appointed New York City Schools Superintendent Richard A. Carranza, left, from Houston, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio display their sandwiches as they lunch at Katz's Delicatessen, on New York's Lower East Side, Monday, April 2, 2018. AP Photo/Richard Drew)
The incoming chancellor, Porter, will begin in the role on April 1.
As executive superintendent in the Bronx, Porter currently leads all 361 of the borough’s schools. She began her career as a youth organizer in Highbridge, and joined the DOE as a teacher at the Bronx School for Law, Government, and Justice, which she helped found. After 18 years there, including as principal, she became superintendent of District 11, which covers the Pelham Parkway, Eastchester and Woodlawn neighborhoods. She became executive superintendent in 2018.
"I grew up in South Jamaica, Queens. My mom is a teacher, and what I learned first from my favorite teacher - my mommy - is the importance that one teacher makes in the life of every young person," she said.