Chancellor Carranza: Pozole in NYC Schools?

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza is multi-talented, cuts to the chase and is not afraid of controversy. (Photo by Javier Castaño via Queens Latino)

“I play mariachi music wherever I can and wherever they invite me to,” said Richard Carranza, the new schools chancellor for the NYC Department of Education (DOE). “And the Mexican team is going to get very far in the World Cup in Russia.”

That is the way the new leader of the largest public education system in the United States – with over 1.1 million students – talks. He said that he loves controversy and that he is not intimidated by the politicians who have taken over the school system.

“Across the entire United States, it’s the same thing with politicians. I will be talking face to face, openly, regardless of whether my opinions are popular or not. This is not a perfect education system, and I am not accusing anyone. My duty is to watch over it and ensure that students will receive the best education possible,” said Carranza.

He went on to talk about his Mexican mother’s pozole, and how he wants to see the soup on the lunch menu of the over 1,800 public schools in the city. “But first, it needs to be up to health standards, just like any other ethnic dish. At the Department of Education, we test different meals every day, and it is quite a rigorous selection process.”

His favorite phrase is “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” For that reason, he emphasizes the fact that every decision at the DOE should be considered from the bottom up in order for it to be authentic.

“I learned English as a second language even though I was born in this country. My parents always made us speak Spanish at home. I was very lucky. I have been a music and civics teacher, and I support the traditional school system,” added Chancellor Carranza, speaking to an audience of members of the so-called ethnic press.

To this Chicano, the Renewal School Program was not a failure, as some schools have shown improvement. He is currently devising a strategy to reduce racial segregation in the city’s schools. Fortunately, he said, we live in a progressive city where the community and the DOE can work together toward a solution.

“The U.S. Supreme Court in 1954 already ruled on this issue. Integration is the law of the land…For us educating the next generation of New Yorkers it’s something we must have conversations about and we must find ways to provide opportunities for students to attend schools across the city,” said Chancellor Carranza, adding: “If we continue with the status quo, we will continue to have segregated schools.”

Chancellor Carranza also addressed schools in urban areas with specific problems such as homeless students (there are more than 110,000 in New York), drug addiction and even incarceration, noting that more resources and support are required from Albany, saying the legislature has not fully funded the system. Meanwhile he said the city has stepped up with more resources, and he stressed that “this city and this mayor and this chancellor and my colleagues are absolutely committed 100 percent to ensuring that our immigrant and refugee community feels safe and supported.”

Next to the chancellor sat Yolanda Torres, executive superintendent of the DOE’s Division of Family and Community Engagement, who spoke about town halls across the city meeting soon “to discuss topics such as diversity and segregation” and bring recommendations back to advisory groups working with the DOE.

Elizabeth Rose, deputy chancellor of the DOE’s Division of Operations, said that “parents are constantly telling us what their children need and the improvements we have to implement in schools.”

Chancellor Carranza concluded by saying that the teaching profession is a noble one, and that this is why he is working with “CUNY, SUNY and the Federation of Teachers to improve the profession and bring more diversity in the teaching staff.”

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