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NYC Chancellor Steps Down, Albuquerque Names New Leader
Richard Carranza resigned as chancellor of the New York school system, effective in March, after three years running the nation’s largest district.
At a news conference announcing his resignation, Carranza, who previously led schools in Houston and San Francisco, attributed his decision to the emotional toll of the pandemic, saying he had lost 11 family and childhood friends to the COVID-19 virus and decided he needed “to take time to grieve.”
Integration advocates commended the outgoing chancellor’s advocacy for integration, citing his work overseeing desegregation plans in Manhattan’s District 3 and Brooklyn’s District 15, curtailing screened admissions to middle schools, and launching anti-bias training for teachers.
When the pandemic struck in 2020, Carranza cautioned against talk about returning to normal—because the old “normal” system was riddled with inequities. It was time, he told Hispanic school administrators, to “finally push and move and be very strategic” about pursuing an equity agenda for students in the public schools. “Never waste a crisis,” he advised, according to reports at the time.
Even a decade ago, Carranza had identified access and equity as the toughest challenges facing urban school systems. In a profile in the Urban Educator in 2013, shortly after he was named superintendent of the 55,000-student San Francisco Unified School District, Carranza asserted that “a direct line can be drawn” between equity of outcome and equity of funding.
“It’s this whole notion of [asking] how do you provide for the needs of students wherever they may be,” he said, articulating a hallmark of that district’s strategic plan.
That profile also revealed Carranza, the grandson of Mexican immigrants, was the first in his family to graduate college and a lifelong mariachi musician.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio named Meisha Ross Porter, executive superintendent in the Bronx, as Carranza’s replacement, making her the first Black woman to run the district of 1.1 million students. A graduate of the New York City school system, she is a 20-year veteran of the district, having served as a teacher and principal. As the Bronx Executive Superintendent, she supervised 361 schools and 235,000 students.
Changes at the top also have been announced in Albuquerque, Seattle, Hawaii and San Francisco, while the contract of Earnest Winston has been extended in North Carolina’s, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
After a national search, New Mexico’s Albuquerque Public Schools selected interim superintendent Scott Elder to permanently lead the 75,300-student school system.
He was the district’s chief operations officer when the district closed its schools in March 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He worked alongside superintendent Raquel Reedy for several months before taking the reins in July and was responsible for helping the school district, New Mexico’s largest, transition from in-person to remote learning.
In addition to navigating the school system through the pandemic, Elder has committed to making classrooms culturally and linguistically responsive. Under his leadership, the district unveiled a new equity plan that outlines steps to achieving racial and education equity and reducing barriers for students and parents. This includes more culturally responsive instruction, improved hiring practices, better resource allocation and access, improved school climates, and anti-racism training for staff.
“The board decision was that Mr. Elder would be the best candidate at this time for the APS Superintendent based on his educational background and current understanding of our district challenges,” said School Board President David Peercy in a press statement. “The board looks forward to working with Mr. Elder on ensuring a vision for APS that supports our core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
The Seattle school board hired Brent Jones as interim superintendent for one year beginning July 1. Jones, a lifelong Seattle resident, previously was the district’s chief equity, partnerships and engagement officer and assistant superintendent of human resources with a record of racial equity initiatives.
Jones will succeed Denise Juneau, who announced she would leave Seattle Public Schools after her contract ends in June. She formerly was Montana’s superintendent of public instruction.
In Hawaii, Christina Kishimoto announced she would not seek to renew her contract at the helm of the state Department of Education, meaning she will end a four-year term July 30.
Kishimoto told the Tribune Herald she focused her efforts on “re-framing how we think about public schools as hubs of innovation for business and industry” and also, more recently, on getting schools ready to reopen for the fourth quarter and the next school year.
Vincent Matthews, the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, recently announced his retirement from the school district he has led since 2017.
A graduate of the 54,452-school system, he will retire June 30, 2021.
“I am eternally grateful to the community and the school board for allowing me to have had the opportunity to serve the community that raised me and made me who I am,” said Matthews in a statement.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board recently extended the contract of Winston to 2025, an extra three years. The board commended Winston’s “strong and steady leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and its many consequences,” according to Elyse Dashew, the board’s chairperson. Winston started in the district as a teacher nearly two decades ago, taking the top post two years ago.