By Naeisha Rose
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s selection for a new schools chancellor went from feeling like a simple draft pick to a soap opera in the course of five days, but Monday he announced that Houston Superintendent Richard Carranza will replace the city’s top educational official, Carmen Fariña.
As the chancellor, Carranza will be managing over five times as many students and schools than he did as the superintendent in Houston.
He was responsible for 216,000 students and 290 schools in the seventh-largest school system in the country. Queens County alone has 352 public schools and 283,354 students. In his new role, Carranza will be presiding over 1.1 million students overall in more than 1,700 public schools in the largest educational system in the United States.
“Richard is the right person to lead our school system forward as we build on the progress we’ve made over the past four years and make our vision of equity and excellence for every child a reality,” de Blasio said.
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), a high-ranking member of the Education Committee in the Legislature, is optimistic about Carranza’s appointment, but believes the new chancellor may face some tough challenges and admits he was holding out for a New Yorker to lead city’s education system.
“I am very hopeful that Richard Carranza will continue in her footsteps and be the guiding hand that all of our school children need,” Addabbo said, referring to Fariña. “However, the New York City school system is much larger than Houston’s and can be overwhelming with the different problems facing each school. I am disappointed that Mayor de Blasio did not go with a candidate from New York City or New York state.”
Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), a ranking member of the Council’s Committee on Education, was less apprehensive about Carranza.
“Chancellor Carranza is a seasoned educator and is a terrific choice for our schools,” Dromm said. “He has an excellent track record when it comes to delivering for undeserved communities, including English Language Learners, special education students, and LGBT youth.”
Carranza is the son of working-class immigrants from Mexico who instilled in him the importance of education while he was growing up in Arizona, and he went on to become a teacher, principal, administrator and superintendent in San Francisco and Houston. In San Francisco, graduation rates rose under his leadership, and in 2016 he started his tenure in Houston. After the devastation of Hurricane Harvey he worked to get schools up and running again.
Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho was the mayor’s initial pick. De Blasio initially declared Carvalho as the new Schools Chancellor Feb. 28, but in a dramatic change of events the education official went from accepting the position to rejecting it the following day during a live broadcast of an emergency board meeting in Miami, in which he became emotional after students, parents and even a local rapper begged him to stay in the Sunshine State.
“He told me repeatedly this was his dream job,” de Blasio told a press conference after Carvalho pulled out.
Several news outlets in Miami said the superintendent’s decision was a strategic move on Carvalho’s part, because he might be eyeing a congressional seat in Florida, which would be harder to do if he moved to New York.
According to a Politico report, his real reason for his not committing to the position was because he wanted to pick his own chief of staff and he was not thrilled with Fariña’s continued influence in the school district.
Fariña will not be vacating her position until the end of March and has expressed an interest in staying part time for a few more months to help with the transition.
“When you work this hard at something, you want to make sure you’re bequeathing what you’ve done to someone who’s like-minded,” Fariña said.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose