Bronx Executive Superintendent Meisha Porter will become the new chancellor for New York City schools in March, replacing Richard Carranza, who announced Friday morning that he is stepping down as the head of the nation’s largest school system.
Porter, a lifelong New Yorker, has worked in public schools for 20 years. She currently oversees Bronx community school districts 7-12, which include 361 schools, with 235,000 students. Hunts Point, Longwood, Mott Haven and Melrose make up part of her districts.
Porter was principal at The Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice on E. 163rd Street between 1997 and 2015. As chancellor, she’ll become the first Black woman to lead the school system when she officially takes over on March 15.
“As a lifelong New Yorker, a product of our City’s public schools, and a career educator, it is the honor of my lifetime to serve as chancellor,” Porter said in a statement. “Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza have laid an incredible foundation for me and I am ready to hit the ground running and lead New York City schools to a full recovery.”
Carranza, who has worked in education for over 30 years, is resigning just 10 months before the end of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s second and final term. He’s led the department for the past three years.
It’s been a tumultuous year for the New York City public school system. Carranza oversaw the shift to remote learning last March as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the city, shuttering in-person classes and programming for students.
New York was the first large city district to resume in-person learning in October — a process that has come about in phases. Most recently, middle schools reopened for the second time Thursday, though high schools have remained closed.
Carranza did not directly voice the reason he is stepping down during a news conference Friday morning announcing Porter’s appointment, but he did say he lost 11 friends and family members to Covid-19 and needs time to grieve.
“(Porter) is an unparalleled warrior for our students and our schools. She attended them, she taught in them, she led them, and now she will be chancellor for all of them,” Carranza said in a statement.
Noting that none of the past several city schools chancellors had been working in city schools when they were appointed, he added, “(Porter) will break the mold, bringing all her experience, past and present, to support you and your children.
Hakiem Yahmadi, president of the Mott Haven educational district’s volunteer Community Education Council, said the board congratulates Porter, but he wondered how long Porter would have the job, noting that a new mayor might want a nationwide search.
“For me, it’s a six month job. I mean we’ll congratulate her — you know the first Black woman in New York City, New York State, education chancellor — but we got a new election this year,” he said, speaking of the upcoming June 22 Democratic primary which is likely to determine the next mayor due to the city’s left-leaning politics.
Regarding Carranza stepping down, Yahmadi said the current chancellor has faced many pressures such as grappling with the pandemic and speaking out against the city’s gifted and talented testing.
Carranza has said testing for the program should be rethought. While white and Asian-American students fill 75% of the seats in the program, Black and Latino students make up around 70% of NYC’s public school enrollment.
The chancellor’s job, Yahmadi said, is enough to wear anyone out, and noted that Carranza “was catching a lot of flack.”
“New York is a different kind of animal. You are going to deal with all five boroughs. You got different parents, educators — some are more educated than others,” Yahmadi noted. “Some communities have more money than others, have a little more juice and they get a lot more say so than other communities.”
The United Federation of Teachers issued a statement thanking Carranza for his partnership in efforts to reopen the schools safely, saying too often he had to fight behind the scenes “to keep the needs of students, staff and their families ahead of politics.”
UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the union has successfully partnered with Porter in the past, including efforts to expand community schools and the Bronx plan. He said he looks forward to working with her.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. had high praise for Porter’s role in guiding Bronx schools and noted that her deep knowledge of the schools department would be a huge asset as students transition back to in-person learning.
“I know she will bring the same energy and enthusiasm she has brought to The Bronx for so many years to all of our students in the City of New York,” Diaz said. “She is a daughter of The Bronx in every sense of the word and I know she will continue to make our borough proud.”
De Blasio praised Carranza’s performance in announcing the change. “Over these three years, Richard Carranza has kept us moving forward — strong academic performance, great strides for fairness and equality. He’s proven that we can and must do both.”
Carranza said serving as chancellor has been his greatest honor. “The strength and resilience of your children — our 1 million students — is awe-inspiring. It is what drove me through this unprecedented crisis, and it is what I take with me as I leave this post.”