De Blasio taps Richard Carranza as NYC schools chancellor

Richard Carranza, Houston Independent School District's superintendent, was introduced as the next New York City schools chancellor by Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday, March 5, 2018. 
Richard Carranza, Houston Independent School District’s superintendent, was introduced as the next New York City schools chancellor by Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday, March 5, 2018.  Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new schools chancellor on Monday, less than a week after his first pick for the job said on live television that he would no longer accept the offer.

The mayor introduced Richard A. Carranza, superintendent of Houston schools, during a news conference in the Blue Room at City Hall around 2:45 p.m.

“Richard, in everything he’s done, has been devoted to children and has been a change agent,” the mayor said of the new chancellor.

Carranza has been the head of Houston’s public school system, the largest in Texas, since August 2016. He served for four years as superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, where he raised graduation rates to historic highs, according to the mayor’s office.

“This is a grueling, grueling job, being the schools chancellor. To do this day in and day out, you have to be a special talent,” the mayor said. “To me, when I looked around, I saw that in Richard. I saw the ability to succeed in school district after school district.”

De Blasio also praised Carranza’s reopening of the Houston school district two weeks after Hurricane Harvey devastated the city in late August.

“He is one of the people who helped get Houston back on its feet,” the mayor said. “ . . . Carranza said we can’t become whole again until the schools reopen . . . so he got those schools up and running.”

First lady Chirlane McCray, who was also at the news conference, described Carranza as a champion of all children, from those who identify as LGBTQ to those with disabilities.

“He’s not interested in system improvement, he’s interested in system change,” McCray said.

Carranza is de Blasio’s second choice to lead the largest public school system in the nation, with 1.1 million students.

On Wednesday, the de Blasio administration had said Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho had been chosen to replace outgoing Chancellor Carmen Fariña, who announced her retirement in December.

In a stunning about-face, Carvalho announced Thursday he had changed his mind and would not accept the New York City job. His decision came after a lengthy, televised Miami school district board meeting in which parents and other constituents begged him to stay.

De Blasio had said he was shocked by Carvalho’s backing out of the job, but added that his administration had already begun its nationwide search, again.

Carranza was a finalist during the mayor’s first search to replace Fariña. De Blasio said when Carvalho backed out, one of the first things he wanted to do was to contact Carranza.

“As soon as things had changed, I immediately reached out to Richard,” de Blasio said.

Carranza flew to New York on Saturday and began negotiations with the de Blasio administration, ultimately ending with a job offer on Sunday night, according to the mayor.

“We spent all of Saturday and all of Sunday in intensive discussions; very, very fruitful discussion. We covered everything and anything,” de Blasio said. “I feel that we ended up in a very, very good place.”

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said the union was “encouraged” by Carranza’s selection.

“Mr. Carranza has earned a reputation for collaboration with teachers, parents and school communities and has been a real champion of public schools,” Mulgew said in an emailed statement. “We are encouraged by his commitment to all children, his resistance to a “testing culture” and his support for the community schools approach.”

Fariña is expected to remain in the post until the end of March. De Blasio said a start date for Carranza had yet to be set and there may be some overlap with the two administrators, but only in a small capacity.

“For a little while I’m going to be the spare chancellor,” Carranza joked.

The board of the Houston Independent School District wished Carranza luck in his new position, though the statement also noted he was leaving “in the midst of HISD facing several challenges.”

“We the Board wish Carranza the best in his endeavors and appreciate the leadership he brought to this district,” board president Rhonda Skillern-Jones said. “We are committed to continuing the work he began and moving the district forward.”

Carranza, fluent in Spanish, began his career in education as a high school social studies and music teacher in Tucson, where he became principal later. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in secondary education from the University of Arizona and a master’s with distinction in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University, where he also completed doctoral coursework.

More from around NYC