Hope and Challenges as New Education Chancellor Visits Bronx School

Mayor Bill de Blasio with Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza during their visit to P.S. 25 in the Bronx. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

The preschool children at bilingual school P.S. 25 in the Bronx – where 87 percent of students are Hispanic – welcomed new Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and Mayor Bill de Blasio with hugs and songs. The successor of Chancellor Carmen Fariña and the city’s leader exchanged high-fives with the little ones and expressed their commitment to continue to fight for equality and excellence in the Big Apple’s 1,800 public schools to guarantee better opportunities for future generations.

Carranza and de Blasio admitted that there are many challenges ahead for the local education system, which is considered to be one of the most segregated in the country. Although they have shown improvement, Latino students in New York continue to lag behind in graduation rates with 63.5 percent, compared to 87.5 percent among Asian students, 83.2 percent of white students and 70 percent of Black students.

“We have seen here, firsthand, an example of the excellence and equity Mr. de Blasio is talking about as we see our children working from such an early age,” said the recently-hired chancellor. “I am new, but I am very proud to be able to present this work and these efforts, and I encourage everyone to continue supporting this type of work,” added the official.

Carranza’s list of challenges includes expanding preschool to children under 3, taking care of 111,500 homeless students and 200,000 children in need of special education, the fight against bullying and the renewal of schools considered to have low performance levels, among other pending issues.

“Richard Carranza is an example of what public education can do,” said the mayor, pointing out that investing in children is an essential tool in the city’s struggle to achieve more fairness.

P.S. 25 Principal Carmen Toledo (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

“Before September, this did not exist. It is brand new, and it is wonderful to see how it has happened so quickly,” said the leader, referring to pre-K for 3-year-olds. “This is the foundation to a whole generation. […] It is the beginning of something larger,” said de Blasio. “All children have a right to learn and to go as far as they can go. They have tremendous potential.”

P.S. 25 Principal Carmen Toledo thanked Carranza and the mayor for their visit, which occurred on the first day of school after spring break, and praised the work of the current administration, even though she said that segregation is evident in the city’s schools.

“That is a reality we see all the time: sometimes there is no equity in schools. We have seen that, at times, we do not have the same things as other schools, but we have tried to fight to keep going,” said Toledo, who is Hispanic. She added that a review of all schools and the communities they serve is needed in order to create specific strategies to improve the quality of the system.

“They need to make sure that each school has its own resources, and I am very confident that that will be the case with the team formed by the chancellor and the mayor,” said the school principal, who asked for more assistance in the form of qualified professionals to staff emotional support services at her school.

More actions than words

Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr., who has repeatedly pointed out the unequal management of resources in schools located in poor areas compared to the rest of the city, took the opportunity to request that words lead to action.

Roberta Cabrera’s children go to P.S. 25 (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

“There is a deficit of resources in the Bronx and across the city. In many communities, we are asked to do more with less, and the Department of Education has to do more to provide equity at all levels and resources to the schools where they are most needed,” said the political leader. “A neighborhood or student’s zip code should not decide the quality of education they receive, and I am hopeful that my office will be able to work with Chancellor Carranza to address the problems of inequality within out public school system.”

Roberta Cabrera, whose three children study at the school visited by Carranza and de Blasio, asked that “the visit does not end with just talking pretty” but translates into action for that and all other schools in the borough.

“We are lacking many things here. Groups are too big, we need more teachers and there is a lot of overcrowding. That’s why it is urgent to solve those problems first,” said Cabrera, adding that she is also quite concerned about bullying. “My children have seen that, and I think that supervisors should be assigned to guarantee that the complaints made here will reach the ears of the chancellor and the mayor and are not lost on the way there.”

Mexican immigrant Alejo Flórez, whose four children used to attend P.S. 25 and now go to other schools in the Bronx, praised the work the de Blasio administration has carried out in the last four years, adding that the challenge now is to increase safety.

“This mayor has made sweeping changes and I am grateful because, thanks to that, my children have received a better education and one of them is about to start college. However, I ask him to work to further improve safety and also to invest in more resources for sports, arts and events to keep children busy and prevent them from taking the wrong path,” said Flórez.

Alejo Flórez (Photo Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

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