‘This is not a zero sum game’: Queens pols blast Carranza over Department of Education diversity strategies

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza
Photo via Twitter/@DOEChancellor

After a fiery letter signed by nine city and state lawmakers was misinterpreted as a call for city Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza’s resignation, Queens Councilman Robert Holden, who penned the letter, is now clarifying his stance.

In the letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Holden claims the Carranza’s attempt create a more equitable education experience for black and brown students has instead been turned against other students through comments made by the chancellor.

“While there is an obvious need for improvements in the schools that serve minority communities throughout the city, it is divisive to place blame upon the students and parents from other backgrounds who are merely pursuing the best education possible for themselves and their children,” the letter read. “Furthermore, putting department staff in a position where they are made to feel uncomfortable because of their ethnicity is reprehensible.”

Holden concluded with demanding that Carranza “cease the contentious rhetoric,” with one bullet point in the letter indicating “Cronyism in the hiring process.”

Carranza responded at a press conference to the claims that recent intakes of employees from California and Texas were based on the candidate’s Hispanic background.

“There are forces in this city that want me to be quiet,” Carranza said on June 10, as reported by the New York Post. “There are forces in this city that want me to be the good minority and be quiet and don’t say a word. Don’t bring the race issue up … you go back through the last seven chancellors and you do the math … Who was hired, who was not hired — what was their process? How did they get chosen? Who did they know? Is it any wonder that those individuals who have been criticized are men and women of color?”

Holden’s office issues a clarification on the letter receiving feedback, much of it in support of the letter, spokesman Daniel Kurzyna said in a June 16 email.

“It’s important to note that the undersigned are not outright calling for the resignation of the chancellor,” Kurzyna said. “The letter outlines some of the concerns that these electeds who have signed on, and the numerous electeds who agree but were unable to sign on, have on the way the chancellor and his administration operate.”

Another Holden spokesman said Carranza was quick to rebut criticism with claims of racism saying, “We support having diversity in our schools but it’s not really a process that can be forced.”

Four Queens City Council members joined Holden in signing the letter: Paul Vallone, Peter Koo, Eric Ulrich and Karen Koslowitz. Chaim Deutsch of Brooklyn and Joe Borelli of Staten Island also put their signatures to the letter head.

Meanwhile, other lawmakers are coming to Carranza’s defense.

Councilman Antonio Reynoso, who represents part of Ridgewood, issued a response to the letter calling it an attack on Carranza’s efforts to challenge the status quo and integrate the school system.

“Chancellor Carranza inherited a public school system with glaring racial disparities,” Reynoso said. “These inequities have implications for every aspect of a child’s education, from the school admissions process to educational quality to resource allocation to the severity of disciplinary measures. Inequity in our schools is not a new phenomenon, but rather one with complex origins and systemic roots.”

Reynoso went on to say that providing education equity is not a “zero sum game” and that providing opportunity to some does not put others at a disadvantage.

A recent lawsuit against the Department of Education claims that three white women were demoted from their posts based on race.

“What I was looking to do was to create a management team that was capable of leading the kind of work that we needed to lead. It’s more about the mindset that I was looking for, and I’m glad to say that that mindset comes in all kinds of colors,” Carranza said as reported by NY1.

According to the DOE, the claim of “reverse racism” has no basis in reality.