After a leadership shakeup, Carranza names new superintendents and a chief academic officer

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza unveiled a new slate of top education officials Monday, drawing from longtime local leaders as well as Texas educators as part of a reorganization of the department’s top leadership.

He named Linda Chen, a former Baltimore schools deputy and New York City principal, as the system’s chief academic officer. Carranza also named nine executive superintendents, a new role he says will clarify lines of accountability and boost support for school leaders.

With Chen’s hire, Carranza’s executive cabinet is now fully staffed. Chen will oversee the department’s division of teaching and learning, special education, and English language learners.

Chen was a finalist for the schools chief job in Hawaii last year, but didn’t get the job. She was previously the chief academic officer of Baltimore Public Schools, and she also held academic leadership roles in Boston and Philadelphia. But before that, she worked in New York City, serving as a principal at P.S. 165 in Manhattan and teaching at P.S. 163.

She currently serves as a vice president at the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, an organization that works with schools that serve many low-income students. A resume submitted for the Hawaii job says she also started an education consulting company in 2016.

“I’m looking forward to working with our great New York City educators and hearing about what’s working and where we can improve,” Chen said in an emailed statement.

The nine new executive superintendents add a level of oversight that didn’t previously exist. This new leadership will oversee both the district superintendents who manage school principals and the Field Support Centers that provide help to principals with everything from budgeting to teacher training.

“Principals have shared that they sometimes receive conflicting messages from multiple offices within the DOE,” Carranza wrote in a report this summer.

For the new superintendents, Carranza — who previously served as chief of schools in Houston — but he also pulled from within New York City’s ranks. The hires include Recy Benjamin Dunn, who oversaw operations and growth at YES Prep, a charter school network based in Houston, and Tim Lisante, who currently oversees alternative schools in the city’s District 79. Others, such as Karen Watts, were already serving as district or high school superintendents.

The executive superintendents named Monday are:

  • Recy Benjamin Dunn, executive superintendent for Affinity Schools
  • Tim Lisante, executive superintendent for transfer schools, District 79, and adult and continuing education
  • Barbara Freeman, executive superintendent for Brooklyn South, Districts 17, 18, 20, 21, and 22
  • Anthony Lodico, executive superintendent for Staten Island, District 31
  • Lawrence Pendergast, executive superintendent for Queens North, Districts 24-26 and 30
  • Marisol Rosales, executive superintendent for Manhattan, Districts 1-6
  • Meisha Ross Porter, executive superintendent for the Bronx, Districts 7-12
  • Andre Spencer, executive superintendent for Queens South, Districts 27-29
  • Karen Watts, executive superintendent for Brooklyn North, Districts 13-16, 19, 23, and 32

Their start date is Sept. 5, the first day of school for the city’s 1.1 million students.