Queens Community Education Council votes ‘no confidence’ in NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza

CEC 24 members and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza at March 2 town hall.
File photo Angélica Acevedo/QNS

Community Education Council District 26 (CEC 26) has voted “no confidence” in New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, citing a lack of leadership, communication and untimely guidance amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  

CEC 26 approved the resolution on Friday, Nov. 20, noting that the “vote of no confidence does not extend to, or reflect upon, the work of the council, school administrators, principals, teachers and educators.”

The council covers the neighborhoods of Bayside, Flushing, Little Neck, Douglaston, Floral Park, Bellerose, Glen Oaks, Queens Village and Jamaica.

The council is calling for Carranza’s removal from the NYC Department of Education as the city’s public school system — except for private schools — closed for in-person learning on Nov. 19 and through Thanksgiving with no timeline for reopening. 

In a letter to parents, Carranza had said that the closure is temporary, and school buildings will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so. 

Parents say the halting of in-person learning gave them no time to make arrangements for their children to switch to fully remote learning. 

“My daughter is in private school and they’re open with all of the protocols in place,” said Josephine Aordkian. “Giving parents less than 24 hours’ notice with closures and no timeline on reopening is totally unacceptable, especially for working parents that have to scramble on how they will make plans for their children on remote learning.” 

Vito, a father of two children who attend public school, said Carranza doesn’t have a long-term plan ready. 

“He shows that he is not the right person to lead the largest public school system in the whole country. During the pandemic, there have been multiple incidents where he did not consider the safety of students and teachers as a high priority,” Vito said. 

CEC 26 is receiving support from Councilman Barry Grodenchik and Assemblyman David Weprin, who are taking a stand with the school community. 

“I’m sad that it’s come to this but I think that we need to stand up and to be counted, and to let the people at City Hall know that the people in eastern Queens are not happy with this,” Grodenchik said. “We have accomplished great things in this community, and I have great confidence in our people.” 

Anthony Lemma, a staff member of Weprin’s office, said that the lawmaker has long been supportive of the district. 

“Our superintendents, teachers, students and everyone in this district is top-notch,” Lemma Sr. said. “I feel that we deserve to have a chancellor who is also top-notch.”

Meanwhile, the Presidents’ Council of District 26, an organization of PTA presidents that supports PTAs and represents the interests of parents within the district, also voted “no confidence” on de Blasio and Carranza in a statement released Nov. 12. 

Appalled and saddened by the crisis of the leadership, the D26 Presidents’ Council is calling for immediate reinstatement of the quarterly opt-in plan. 

“The mayor and chancellor’s last-minute gambit to pressure parents to upend their lives once again, in order to justify a plan that was unworkable from the start, is now inflicting more fear, chaos and instability on an already emotionally strained population,” the Council said in their statement. 

Cathy Grodsky, president of the council, said parents have had enough. 

“It’s very troubling about what has been going on. When the DOE decided on the opt-in agreement and it was supposed to be quarterly and then tried to scare parents with only one opt-in period, that was the last straw for parents,” Grodsky said. 

Grodsky, who is a parent of four children currently doing remote learning, said so far it has been going well given the administrators and teachers who have been doing an incredible job. 

However, what has been stressful, Grodsky says, is the shifting narrative from the DOE and broken promises to students and families. 

“I think it’s traumatizing for kids and their parents at this point,” Grodsky said. “We teach our children to keep their promises, and when they see that the head of their school system continually breaks promises, what message is that sending our kids? All of that trust is gone now.” 

According to Grodsky, there has been no information forthcoming about admissions processes for middle school, high school and specialized high school exams. 

“I have an eighth-grader who’s waiting for that information. They worked so hard up until now, and to not have any guidance and to be constantly told to wait for it, it’s unacceptable,” Grodsky said. 

Grodsky said it’s nonsensical to not allow parents to put their kids back into blended learning at a future date. 

“Enough with playing games. Stick to your promises. They have lost all credibility,” Grodsky said. 

In a statement to QNS, the a DOE spokesperson said the DOE has already communicated to families that its pre-pandemic admissions timeline was being updated to ensure families have enough time to explore their options prior to the process launching.

“We understand that families, schools and community leaders are eager for more information and we will soon share more details around a new timeline including the deadline for middle, high school applications and the dates for SHSAT administration,” the spokesperson said. 

According to the DOE spokesperson, remote learning students are receiving a high-quality education, and they have provided hundreds of thousands of free devices to families, conducted thorough professional development opportunities, and offered curriculum tailored to a digital environment to help support fully remote classrooms and educators. This also includes prioritizing students with disabilities learning remotely, and the continuation of support and services for multilingual families.

In response the CEC 26 resolution, the DOE spokesperson said it does not have any binding consequences.

“The DOE holds regular meetings with all CECs, including CEC 26, and their leadership decided to postpone our last meeting with them,” the spokesperson said. “CEC 26 not only has regular meetings directly with DOE staff, but their district is also represented on the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council, where they have the opportunity to meet with the chancellor and offer suggestions/ideas on policy.” 

Furthermore, the spokesperson said the DOE is working diligently to reopen school buildings quickly and carefully to ensure they can provide the maximum amount of in-person education for as many students that can be safely programmed as possible.

“The chancellor is laser focused on supporting students and families in the midst of a pandemic and has been working around the clock to ensure school communities are safe,” said Katie O’Hanlon, the DOE’s deputy press secretary. “Parent empowerment is important, and the chancellor regularly meets with families to make sure their voices are heard.”