Houston superintendent named next chancellor

Richard Carranza (left) meets the press at City Hall after having been named New Ed Reed/Mayor Photography Office

Richard Carranza (left) meets the press at City Hall after having been named New York City’s next schools chancellor by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Richard Carranza, the Houston schools superintendent and a strong advocate of public schools, was selected by Mayor Bill de Blasio on March 5 to be the next New York City schools chancellor.

“Mr. Carranza has earned a reputation for collaboration with teachers and parents,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “We are encouraged by his commitment to all children, his resistance to a ‘testing culture’ and his support for the community schools approach.”

A lifelong educator, Carranza started out as a bilingual social studies teacher and then principal in Tucson, Arizona. After a stint as a regional superintendent in Las Vegas, he worked in San Francisco public schools for seven years, including four at the helm.

In August 2016, he was named superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, the seventh-largest school system in the country with 215,000 students. In Houston, Carranza faced budget challenges and a hostile state government. He received high marks for helping the school system recover from the disruption of Hurricane Harvey last summer.

In the City Hall press conference that the mayor called to make the announcement, Carranza said he would fulfill de Blasio’s education agenda. “There is no daylight between Mayor de Blasio and myself,” he said. “The equity agenda championed by our mayor is my equity agenda.”

He said charter schools can, like public schools, be weak or strong, but he made clear his own allegiance: “I am a vocal, voracious, absolutely passionate supporter of public schools.”

Harkening back to his roots as a teacher, Carranza vowed to spend as much time as possible in schools. “The classroom remains my inspiration and strength,” he said.

His advocacy on behalf of English language learners has been a hallmark of his career. The grandchild of Mexican immigrants, Carranza grew up speaking Spanish at home and learned English at public school.

A strong supporter of bilingual education, Carranza believes English language learners should not only become fluent in English, but also have the opportunity to become fully fluent and literate in their native language. “I don’t see how any student is going to be successful in the next 10 years without being multilingual, without at least being bilingual,” he said in a 2015 profile in Education Week.

At the press conference, Carranza also spoke about the support that “historically underserved” — he said he chose that term purposefully — schools need to turn around. He said a school system must pay attention to six things in these schools: leadership, teaching, curriculum, joyful learning, wraparound social services and parent empowerment. On teaching, he said “building capacity” was important. “Everyone talks about accountability, but rarely do we talk about building capacity,” he said. “When you build capacity, accountability will come.”

On the issue of segregation, he said the problem has dogged every urban school district he has led. He said a school district on its own cannot solve the problem but can be part of a broader solution.

The mayor said Carranza will be paid $345,000, the same as he made running the schools in Houston and some $125,000 more than Carmen Fariña, who also earned a pension, made on the job.

Carranza’s appointment came four days after Alberto Carvalho, the Miami-Dade County superintendent, reneged on his promise to take the position in a dramatic, live broadcast of a Miami school board meeting.

De Blasio told reporters that Carranza had been the runner-up in the nationwide search.

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