New York City Schools Chancellor Resigns After Firestorms over Racism Policies, Reopening Delays

New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza joins Mayor Bill De Blasio at a video press conference on the city's response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak held at City Hall on March 19, 2020 in New York City. Reporters participated via WebEx and the event was streamed live by local …
William Farrington-Pool/Getty Images

New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced Friday he will step down from his post in the wake of harsh criticism from parents and others over his “obsession” with “racism” and his handling of the reopening of the city’s schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

Carranza, an Arizonan who was hired for the chancellor’s post after Mayor Bill de Blasio’s (D) first choice candidate suddenly rejected the job at the last minute, said during a press briefing he was resigning due to the loss of a number of his family and friends as a result of the coronavirus.

“I know the pandemic has not been easy for you or for any New Yorker,” Carranza said. “And make no mistake, I am a New Yorker — well not by birth, but by choice — 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.”

The New York Post editorial board wrote Carranza’s “surprise resignation” actually leaves the city in a position that is “better off without his signature blend of incompetence and toxicity.”

The editorial board continued regarding Carranza’s decision to make “racism” his “obsession”:

As Karol Markowicz writes, Carranza came to the city three years ago, guns blazing, “accusing everyone around him of racism [and] degrading parents who dared speak up for their children.” All too often, race seemed to be not merely his obsession, but his only concern. (Well, that and dumping on the charter schools that actually deliver for the minority kids he claims to care about.)

And when it came to actually running the nation’s largest school district, he started off in over his head and never improved.

“Carranza will be remembered for demonizing liberals (both parents and DOE professionals) as racists, for pitting blacks and Hispanics against whites and Asians, and for failing completely when a real crisis hit,” the Post editors asserted.

Both de Blasio and Carranza appeared unable to launch a consistent school reopening plan.

Following initial school closures last March, students in New York City moved to remote learning for the duration of the last academic year. In September, schools were slated to open but a new agreement with teachers’ unions left only pre-K and special needs students beginning in-person learning immediately, while K-5 and K-8 schools would attend schools for the first time later that month, followed by high schools in October.

Staffing shortages, however, reportedly blocked that plan.

A second delay occurred as students whose families opted for hybrid learning, i.e., part time in-person learning and part-time remote, were not guaranteed instruction on remote-learning days – also due to staffing shortages.

As PIX 11 News reported, de Blasio then closed all school buildings in November when coronavirus cases spiked across the city.

Children attending the city’s pre-K, elementary, and middle schools, whose parents chose the hybrid system at the start of this academic year, now have part-time in-school learning. The city’s public high schools, however, have remained closed.

“Our teachers and school staff take an equity-centered belief and approach so that our students can feel seen and heard but most importantly believed in,” Carranza said during the press briefing, adding as some of his accomplishments:

We have capped the length of suspensions and implemented restorative practices in the largest school system in America. We made true progress in dismantling structures and policies that are products of decades of entrenched racism, like suspending school screens.

In December, mid-pandemic, de Blasio decided to make changes to how some selective middle and high schools in the city screen students, in order to allow more black and Hispanic students entry.

The New York Times reported in June that de Blasio views the use of screening criteria such as “attendance, grades, test scores, school work and sometimes interviews and recommendations” for students to be admitted to selective city schools as a tool of “segregation” because many black and Hispanic students do not achieve the level required for admission.

“Critics say that the process is inherently unfair, because it privileges children whose families have the time and money to navigate the complex system and pay for test preparation or consultants,” Times education columnist Eliza Shapiro wrote, “And that it discriminates against qualified but low-income black and Hispanic students.”

In 2018, Asian-American families fiercely criticized de Blasio’s ultimately failed attempt to integrate the elite specialized high schools by eliminating the entrance exam. The families claimed he was creating further divisiveness.

“The mayor is pitting minority against minority and that’s really messed up,” said Kenneth Chiu, president of the New York City Asian-American Democratic Club, the New York Post reported at the time.

Carranza sparked his first controversy in April 2018, when he retweeted a story with a headline that condemned white parents for their opposition to a diversity proposal.

“Wealthy white Manhattan parents angrily rant against plan to bring more black kids to their schools,” read the post.

In May 2019, three longstanding female Department of Education (DOE) officials filed a lawsuit that argued Carranza’s attempt to purge “toxic” whiteness at the DOE left them demoted and replaced by less-qualified persons of color.

“If you draw a paycheck from DOE … get on board with my equity platform or leave,” Carranza said, according to the lawsuit reported by the New York Post, which added:

“Under Carranza’s leadership, DOE has swiftly and irrevocably silenced, sidelined and punished plaintiffs and other Caucasian female DOE employees on the basis of their race, gender and unwillingness to accept their other colleagues’ hateful stereotypes about them,” wrote the group’s lawyer, Davida S. Perry, in the filing.

Carranza said he will be leaving his post this month. De Blasio (D) announced Bronx Executive Superintendent Meisha Ross Porter would become the new schools chancellor.

“We need to make sure that every school has the resources to support trauma, social emotional learning needs, um, that our curriculum is representative of the communities that that they serve and that our students – all students – see underrepresented populations in their curriculum,” Porter said.

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