Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza on Friday stood by his decision to tweet a viral video with a harsh headline about Upper West Side parents angrily protesting a proposal to integrate middle schools, reaffirming that he intends to speak more bluntly about segregation than his predecessor.
Carranza also received some backing from his boss, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been criticized for appearing far more reluctant to tackle the issue.
Just before 1 a.m. on Friday, the chancellor tweeted a video that originally aired on NY1 but got picked up by the news site Raw Story. Carranza didn’t add any of his own commentary, but his Twitter followers saw it as an endorsement of the site’s characterization of the video headline: “Wealthy white Manhattan parents angrily rant against plan to bring more black kids to their schools.”
Facing questions from reporters after touring a middle school in Hamilton Grange, Carranza said the video from the District 3 meeting “struck me” and “speaks for itself.”
The chancellor, on the job for less than a month since he was plucked from his post as superintendent in Houston, stressed that he didn’t choose the provocative description of the video. But asked whether the language was divisive or if he shouldn’t have shared the footage, Carranza did not back down.
Instead, he noted that he has already heard from many parents, students, and school leaders who are concerned about segregation in New York City, and touched on his own experiences as a Mexican-American.
“This has been a conversation that’s been everywhere, so I’m glad we’re having the conversation,” he said. “But I will say very strongly that as the chancellor of schools in New York City, I am who I am, and I’ve lived the life I’ve lived, and I am a man of color.”
“I’m not running for office. I just want to do whatever I can to be part of creating this incredible environment for 1.1 million children,” he added.
In his regular appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, de Blasio stood by his schools chief. Though de Blasio said he “might phrase it differently,” he also said the chancellor hadn’t intended to “vilify anyone.”
“The chancellor is speaking bluntly as someone who understands, from personal experience, that there is a lot we have to overcome in this society to create fairness for people of color,” de Blasio said.
Officials in District 3 are pushing a plan to offer at least a quarter of seats at the district’s 16 middle schools to students whose state test scores suggest they are not proficient in reading and math. Since academic achievement is closely linked to race and economic status, the plan could integrate middle schools on multiple levels.
But some parents who worry their higher-scoring children will be shut out of the most sought-after schools have pushed back hard against the plan.
In the viral video, one mother shouts: “You’re telling them, ‘You’re going to go to a school that’s not going to educate you in the same way you’ve been educated: Life sucks!’”
Carranza said concerns that the quality of schools will suffer if they accept more low-performing kids is “a red herring conversation.”
“Diversity is a positive. It is something that adds to the education of our students,” he said. “I want parents to understand that the social compact we have, living in a society, means that we take care of the entire society.”
Carranza has repeatedly signaled that he believes the education department has a central role to play in desegregating schools — offering a contrast to the chancellor he replaced, Carmen Fariña.
He did not weigh-in on the specifics of the District 3 proposal, saying he is still looking into the details. But Carranza called it “well thought-out” and “very moderate, quite frankly.”