Southeast Queens native Meisha Porter will become the first Black woman to lead the largest public school system in the nation, as current New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced his resignation on Friday, Feb. 26.
After serving as the helm of New York City’s public school system for three years, Carranza’s surprise announcement comes a day after middle schools reopened for in-person classes and high schools remain closed in the midst of a pandemic that has upended education in New York City since March 2020. Carranza said one of the reasons for his departure is due to “personal challenges” he has faced, such as losing 11 family members or close friends to COVID-19.
As Porter is set to oversee New York City schools on March 15, Carranza said she is an “unparalleled warrior for our students and our schools.”
“Meisha will break the mold, bringing all of her experience, past and present, to support you and your children,” Carranza said during the Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daily press conference on Friday. “You need someone who knows firsthand the reality on the ground at our schools, and has the talent and leadership to finish the school year out strong and drive towards bringing every child back to buildings in September.”
Porter was born in Far Rockaway and raised in Jamaica by a family of educators. During her upbringing, Porter learned from her mother, who returned to school to finish her degree and became an educator herself, about the difference one teacher can make in a student’s life.
Porter is a 20-year veteran of New York City public schools. She was a teacher and principal for 18 years, and currently serves as executive superintendent of the Bronx school districts 7-12, covering the entire borough and its 361 schools and 235,000 students. For Porter, it is an honor and privilege to serve as the next schools chancellor, as she is ready to “hit the ground running” and lead New York City schools to a full recovery, she said.
“We are going to build up communities together and bring people together to serve our students,” Porter said. “To our many advocates and community leaders, we will partner with you to keep making New York City a better place for all children. This moment is not about what the school system will do alone, it’s about what New York City will do together to invest in our children.”
As chancellor, Porter said she will remove barriers and direct resources where they are needed the most, and to communicate clearly around their shared goals and commitments at every school, in every neighborhood and in every borough.
“We have come so far since March and Chancellor Carranza and the mayor have laid an incredible foundation and the cabinet at the central office are ready to go,” Porter said. “I pledge to our students that I am indebted to you as a leader, teacher and principal, promising to do everything to reopen high schools, and address trauma and academic needs.”
A proud product of New York City public schools, Porter graduated from Queens Vocational and Technical High School in Long Island City, and went on to receive her bachelor of arts in English concentrating in cross cultural literature and Black and Puerto Rican studies at Hunter College, according to her biography on Deeper Learning Equity Fellowship.
Porter later received her master’s degree in administration and supervision from Mercy College and completed her school district leader certification through the NYC Advanced Leadership Institute. She pursued her EdD at Fordham University in the Bronx.
Porter first joined the Department of Education as a teacher at the Bronx School for Law, Government, and Justice — a school she helped conceive that sits on a court campus creating an opportunity for young people to learn about the inner workings of the court system. After 18 years at the school, where she became principal, Porter spent three years as superintendent of District 11, serving the Pelham Parkway, Eastchester and Woodlawn neighborhoods of the Bronx. During Porter’s tenure as executive superintendent of the Bronx school districts, the students of the Bronx have achieved significant academic gains, and schools have become stronger.
In addition to previous roles within the DOE, Porter has also taught at CUNY as an adjunct professor and has been a Columbia University Cahn fellow, an Aspen Institute fellow, and a member of the Harvard University National Institute for Urban School Leaders and a member of the Fordham University-Carnegie Foundation iLead team. Porter has also received the National Association of Negro Women Sojourner Truth Award, Mercy College honorary degree and multiple state and local recognitions.
Dedicated to her service to education in the Bronx, Porter said she will never forget what it means to be in a classroom with students, planning lessons and thinking about what is important to students, especially during this unprecedented time for teachers who are grappling with remote learning and in-person classes.
“For school leaders who are managing so many multiple tasks, but are centering children first, and district leaders who are ensuring that support and resources are being poured into schools every day, I will never forget,” Porter said. “I am ready to get to work, and I am so honored to serve in this role and I understand greatly what it means for it to be me, and to all of the little girls out there, I’m saving a seat for you.”
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards congratulated Porter on her new role.
“The challenges facing our students, families and the entire school system amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented but Queens has full confidence in the immense ability of Queens-born trailblazer Meisha Porter, the first Black woman to lead the Department of Education,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. “Queens thanks Chancellor Richard Carranza for his leadership both before and during this devastating public health crisis, and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”