By Carli Seigelstein
New York, New York
New York City Chancellor Richard A. Carranza announced his resignation on Friday morning. As chancellor of the New York City’s Department of Education (DOE), Carranza spent the last three years spearheading the largest school system in the nation. His resignation follows tension with Mayor Bill de Blasio regarding who had the final say over major educational decisions along with the crisis that has come with COVID-19.
In his announcement, the chancellor described himself as a “New Yorker who needs to take time to grieve,” as he has lost eleven relatives to the virus. He noted that now is the right time for him to step down because of the accomplishments made in creating safe learning environments, providing resources for remoting learning, including devices and meals, and reopening the majority of schools ahead of the rest of the districts in America. In a letter to public school families, he wrote how public education “anchors communities” and gives opportunities to those like himself who don’t “speak English when they enter the public school system to develop their dreams, and then to chase them.”
He also spoke about the progress made in combating racism in one of the most segregated education systems in the country, something he has advocated for since being appointed in 2018. From the beginning, Carranza was, very publicly, de Blasio’s second choice to Miami’s school chancellor who ended up declining the job on live television. Carranza has zeroed in on desegregation, while the mayor has tried to stay neutral. Some praised Carranza for such opinions while others criticized his hyperfocus on diversity.
He introduced anti-bias training for teachers and advocated for the removal of the SHSAT, the entrance exam for the city’s most selective high schools and a major cause of the predominantly white and Asian populations they hold. Asian and white families showed their objections in the months preceding the pandemic through chanting at public events, calling for his resignation. Carranza’s critics are not limited to the families of the city; the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) created a petition to remove him, with 2,213 signings as of this afternoon. They called out both the chancellor and the mayor on their downfalls concerning COVID-19 and the lack of “competent and trustworthy leadership” that the countless children, families, and faculty deserve amongst these unprecedented times.
Ultimately, Carranza’s resignation comes as a result of the conflict over the future of gifted & talented (G&T) programs between the chancellor and mayor. Carranza reportedly wrote his letter of resignation following a heated argument with de Blasio but did not quit at that moment. The chancellor and the mayor have a history of opposing viewpoints, as Carranza has publicly contradicted the mayor on several issues, the most prevalent being integration in public schools.
Carranza has advocated for a complete abolishment of the G&T test because he believes the citywide program is unjust and deeply problematic. Critics of the G&T program agree with the chancellor—and supporters may soon change their minds—considering white and Asian students populate 75% of the gifted programs, yet Black and Latinx children populate 70% of the city’s public education system. In addition to the disputes between Carranza and de Blasio, the chancellor and other senior education officials reportedly felt that their expertise was often vetoed or overlooked by the mayor.
As the nation’s largest education system looks forward, “lifelong New Yorker” and “product of our city’s public schools” Meisha Porter will replace Carranza effective March 15. Porter grew up in Queens and worked as a teacher and principal for eighteen years. As Executive Superintendent in the Bronx, she has “overseen the largest gains in graduation rates of any borough” in just three years, according to the DOE. She will make history as the first Black woman to hold the title of Chancellor of the Department of Education. Porter is optimistic about the future of New York City public schools and is “ready to hit the ground running and lead [them] to a full recovery.”