He’s the son of laborers, a lifelong educator, and an accomplished mariachi musician — and now he’ll be New York City’s schools chancellor.
Richard Carranza is leaving the Houston Independent School District, which he has run for the last 18 months, to run New York City’s schools, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday. Here’s what you need to know about the man who will lead the country’s largest school system.
- He’s a lifelong educator. This was one of de Blasio’s requirements for job candidates, and Carranza meets it amply. He taught bilingual education before becoming a principal and then moving into district administration. De Blasio praised him as “an educator’s educator” and Carranza said he continues to prioritize visiting classrooms — something that undoubtedly won him favor with Carmen Fariña, the chancellor he’ll replace.
- He’s worked in four school districts — two in the last 18 months. Carranza has been in his current job for less than two years. Before that, he ran San Francisco’s schools for four years. The duration of those stints put Carranza in line with the average for urban superintendents, which is just over three years. Lifelong employment in a single district — a characteristic of Fariña and, for that matter, Alberto Carvalho, de Blasio’s first choice to run the city’s schools — is unusual. Before he took over in San Francisco, Carranza also worked in Las Vegas and Tucson schools.
- He is leaving a district under the threat of state takeover. Houston’s school district faces a $115 million budget shortfall and could be taken over by the state due to the some of its schools’ poor academic performance, according to the Houston Chronicle. “I was hoping he’d finish out the year,” one of the Houston district’s elected trustees, Sergio Lira, told Chalkbeat. “We’re facing some tough challenges.” San Francisco, Carranza’s previous district, is also facing criticism because of longstanding performance gaps between its black and Latino students and its white and Asian students.
- He led Houston schools’ response to Hurricane Harvey. Last year’s storm damaged hundreds of schools in Houston and left thousands of students homeless. In the wake of the storm, Carranza expanded the number of “community schools” offering services to students and their families, then used the district’s fundraising arm to give holiday gifts to staff affected by the storm. “When you look at Richard Carranza’s leadership in Houston during Hurricane Harvey, you see extraordinary strength,” said de Blasio, whose education department has prioritized community schools.
- He comes from a working-class background. Carranza, who was born in Arizona, is the grandson of immigrants from Mexico. His father was a sheet metal worker and his mother, a hairdresser. Like Fariña, who noted the similarities between their life stories at the press conference announcing his appointment, Carranza spoke only Spanish at home and learned English for the first time attending public schools.
- He believes all students should speak multiple languages. “I don’t see how any student is going to be successful in the next 10 years without being multilingual, without at least being bilingual,” Carranza told Education Week in 2015. In the districts where he has worked, he has worked to expand bilingual classes and widen the pipeline of bilingual teachers.
- He’s an accomplished mariachi musician. It’s such a big part of his identity that his official profile on the Houston district’s website includes the information. Here he is performing with Houston students last year.