HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza leaving for New York job

By Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor

HOUSTON - Houston Independent School District Superintendent Richard Carranza is leaving Houston to take a job as the head of New York City's public schools.

The HISD Board of Education is holding an emergency meeting Tuesday morning to discuss the next steps for district leadership. They will hold a news conference right after at noon.

Details of Carranza’s departure were not immediately released by HISD officials, but New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday that Carranza will be the new chancellor of the city's Department of Education.

Carranza has been with HISD since August 2016. Before that, he was superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District for four years.

During a news conference Monday afternoon, de Blasio called Carranza a proven leader, touting his time as superintendent in San Francisco. When it came to Carranza’s brief time in Houston, de Blasio pointed out Carranza’s efforts to reopen schools two weeks after Hurricane Harvey.

“When you look at Richard Carranza’s leadership in Houston during Hurricane Harvey, you see extraordinary strength,” de Blasio said.

De Blasio, however, said Carranza knew he was headed into a difficult situation when he took the job at HISD, saying the district is historically underfunded.

“When he went on to Houston, he knew he was going into a very tough situation,” de Blasio said. “I will say this gently – a state government that perhaps did not invest all it could have in education.”

Carranza thanked HISD and Houston's mayor.

"I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to my school board in Houston, Texas, who gave me an opportunity to come to Houston and serve. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Mayor Sylvester Turner in Houston who was a true partner. I want to thank them for the opportunity," he said.

Carranza said he looks forward to concentrating on issues that he believes are important.

“I hope to move the conversation so that we’re not talking about bathrooms, and we’re talking about classrooms,” Carranza said. “I hope to be part of the solution and part of the innovation that has started, that is gaining momentum, and that we can actually accelerate what we’re doing in New York City.”

Carranza appeared on Houston Newsmakers with Khambrell Marshall on Sunday, where he talked about budget frustrations.

"It's tragic because we know that students in Houston have needs and we know that we've been able to fund learning opportunities for students for many years here in Houston but those days are gone," he said.

New York City is the largest school district in the country with more than 1 million students. HISD is the eighth largest.

HISD Board responds

Carranza leaves while HISD is facing several challenges, including funding issues and recapture.

"We the Board wish Carranza the best in his endeavors and appreciate the leadership he brought to this district," HISD board president Rhonda Skillern-Jones said in a statement. "We are committed to continuing the work he began and moving the district forward."

The board said in a press release it will meet Thursday to discuss the next steps.

VIDEO: Carranza leaving HISD

But first the trustees will hold a news conference at noon Tuesday. We plan to bring it to you live on Click2Houston.com.

A statement from Carranza was also released by the board: 

"It has been an honor and privilege to have served the students of the Houston Independent School District and bring a voice to communities that have historically been underserved," Carranza said. "It is with a heavy heart that I announce my departure as I embark on this new journey. I am looking forward to the opportunity of serving the 1.1 million students in New York City. I am forever grateful to the people of Houston for allowing me to be a part of this great city."

More reaction

Mayor Sylvester Turner released a statement that read:

"I received phone calls today from Richard Carranza and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. I wished the superintendent well, and I told Mayor de Blasio that I believe he is getting a very capable superintendent. Now, we must focus on HISD’s situation.

"HISD is our largest school district not only in the city but also in the state, and it’s important for its trustees to put in place a very capable interim leader as we navigate through the challenges the district is facing. It’s clear the city cannot move forward unless our school districts are moving forward and providing a quality education to all our children. I will be glad to work closely with the interim superintendent as well as the board to make sure we are doing the very best for our schools, our children and the people in the city of Houston."

Houston Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement:

"Houston’s loss is New York City’s gain. Under Superintendent Carranza’s leadership and vision, we collaborated to strengthen and support public education in Houston. Together, we ended the teacher assessment sham that was VAM (value-added measures), and we coordinated to get schools aid and new books in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Richard worked tirelessly to help communities recover and heal, well after the floodwater receded. He was a proud servant of the children of Houston, and, if his track record is any guide, he’ll be a similarly indispensable asset to the children of New York. While we’re sad to see Richard leave Texas, we congratulate him on his appointment and New York City on its wise choice."

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, released a statement that read:

"Mr. Carranza has earned a reputation for collaboration with teachers, parents and school communities and has been a real champion of public schools. We are encouraged by his commitment to all children, his resistance to a 'testing culture' and his support for the community schools approach."

Wretha Thomas, president of the Houston Education Support Personnel, released a statement:

"Wow, HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza jumped ship like a thief in the night. This is just a slap in the face to HISD students and community, at a time HISD is facing school closure and short fall with the budget. Carranza only thought of himself. He left HISD community, staff, and students to drown. This only means something greater is coming and a sign of a great moment." 

Thomas said she worked closely with Carranza and supported him when he arrived to HISD. Thomas, who is the union president over bus drivers, custodial and lunch room staff said Carranza helped the union.

“I had a lot of confidence in him in trying to get the school district turned around, I’m really let down,” Thomas said.

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