NYC parent leaders seek — and receive — new assurance about Chancellor Carranza’s future

Following sharp criticism from some City Council members and the recent resignation of a senior appointee, Chancellor Richard Carranza and his future with the education department were on the minds of parent leaders assembled Thursday for their monthly meeting.

After hearing a flurry of concerns, Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council member Sheree Gibson decided to ask deputy chancellor Hydra Mendoza point blank if Carranza was leaving the post he’s held since last year.

Mendoza “was surprised and emphatically stated that’s not true,” Gibson said, adding that the deputy chancellor said Carranza “is a fighter.” Asked whether the chancellor was resigning, a spokeswoman for the education department press office said, “It’s not true.”

Mendoza’s unequivocal response was the latest in the back-and-forth from elected officials, department staffers, and parents over Carranza’s policy initiatives, hiring practices, and focus on racial bias in the school system.

As parents worried about the chancellor’s fate, Carranza’s Twitter account shared a July 3 letter signed by members of the Brooklyn Black Elected Officials Coalition showing their steadfast support and citing “egregious resistance” to the chancellor’s priorities. Coalition member Walter Mosley, a state assemblyman, said the group started drafting the letter last month in response to the lack of movement on the city’s plan to diversify the specialized high schools, as well as the ongoing criticism of Carranza.

“Chancellor Carranza should be commended for his new initiatives, as he is seeking to make New York City public schools equitable by challenging the current racial disparities in discipline, segregation and ensuring culturally relevant education,” the letter said. 

It was not immediately clear what prompted the sudden wellspring of concern about Carranza’s tenure, though a group of city lawmakers have previously questioned the chancellor’s performance and suggested that he should be fired if he “continues to divide this city” with “contentious rhetoric” about race.

That letter was largely symbolic — only the mayor has the authority to hire and fire the schools chancellor — though it represented an unusual rebuke. In public, Mayor Bill de Blasio has stood by the schools chief, saying Carranza “isn’t going anywhere.”

Gibson said she inquired about the chancellor’s status partly because parent leaders are “quite aware of the firestorm going on around him. We don’t want our parent representatives to be blindsided themselves” — or for unfounded claims to spread.

[Related: Carranza — and his critics — dig in as controversy over racism and integration roils NYC’s schools]

The letter from Brooklyn’s black elected officials was just the latest display of public support for a chancellor who, in recent months, has encountered fierce pushback on his leadership style and priorities. He has also come under fire for hiring practices, followed by the abrupt departure this month of Abram Jimenez, the department’s Senior Executive Director of Continuous School Improvement, after questions were raised by The New York Post about his employment history.

Some parent leaders and advocates said the scare over Carranza’s tenure may serve as encouragement to keep up their defense of his leadership.

Others said they weren’t so sure how the situation would play out, given the Department of Education’s notoriously opaque nature.

“I’ve been a parent since ’94 in the DOE,” said Celia Green, a co-chair of the advisory council, “and you know to take nothing for granted.”