Too ‘Divisive’ or Just Honest? Local Pols Split on Carranza

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza talks about Meatless Monday change in menu. Todd Maisel/Bklyner

After a letter signed by three Brooklyn politicians put the schools chancellor on blast, progressive lawmakers came to his defense on Monday, again bringing the fissures among Brooklyn officials on education to the fore.

“We need a chancellor who promotes education, not division,” the local politicians, including Council Member Chaim Deutsch as well as Southern Brooklyn Assembly members William Colton and Peter Abbate Jr., say in their letter to the mayor, reported by the New York Post over the weekend. “If Chancellor Carranza continues to divide this city, then someone who can unite this city and provide a quality education for all should replace him.”

In response, Council Member Antonio Reynoso on Monday defended the education head. Reynoso— who represents Williamsburg and parts of Bushwick and is running for Borough president— said Carranza’s “efforts in striving toward” desegregation ought to be supported.

“As a person of color and Council Member who has worked to bring equity into our public school system, I am saddened that the Chancellor’s efforts to ensure opportunity for all have come under attack,” said Reynoso in a press release.

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Reynoso wasn’t the only Council member to chime in.

On Tuesday, 23 Council members—including education committee chair and Council Member Mark Treyger, along with 9 of 16 fellow Brooklyn Council members— Rafael Espinal, Carlos Menchaca, Inez Barron, Alicka Ampry-Samuel, Brad Lander, Stephen Levin, Robert Cornegy, as well as Reynoso—sent a letter to the mayor in support of “the chancellor’s efforts to ensure opportunity for all.”

“Initiatives to tackle systematic inefficiency within the agency, improve responsiveness, and most importantly, address long entrenched racial biases are long overdue,” the letter reads. “These integration policies are exactly the kind of decisive, bold, intervention that we need to make our school system fair and accessible for all students.”

The reactions come after the Post has published a series of stories that paint an unflattering picture of Carranza’s tenure, along with critical opinion pieces of the outspoken schools’ chancellor, in particular the way he has addressed the city’s public school segregation.

The latest is a letter written by Council Member Robert Holden of Queens and signed by eight other local officials, which accuses the school chancellor of “changing policies based on ethnicity rather than efficacy,” “divisive statements directed toward parents and students,” and “meritless firing or demotion of qualified, veteran employees.”

The letter, addressed to Mayor Bill de Blasio, claims Carranza has “alien[ated] key stakeholders.”

This follows Carranza, who is Latino, saying last week that he was being accused of cronyism because he is a person of color.

Lander, who has said he will run for Comptroller, also took the opportunity to defend Carranza, as he has in the past. In an interview, he told Bklyner “there is no real reason to believe that the chancellor has behaved in an inappropriate way, whatsoever.”

Lander put the blame for what he sees as unfair attacks against Carranza chiefly on the New York Post, which he said is launching an “appalling” mission to warn local politicians that the tabloid would “feed a backlash against anyone who tries to stand up against segregation.” The Progressive Caucus Council member added that it was unfortunate to see colleagues “jumping on board with the Post’s campaign.”   

“It is disappointing that elected officials, including several of my colleagues, would join the New York Post’s crusade here,” Lander, who represents Park Slope, Gowanus and parts of Kensington, said Monday.

The mayor is sticking with Carranza, who was hired to run the school system in April 2018. De Blasio on Monday called the letter “irresponsible” and said the politicians who signed the letter “should be ashamed of themselves.”

“The [elected officials] should’ve known better, and that’s not the way to handle it,” the mayor said on New York 1. “Richard Carranza is not going anywhere. He’s doing a great job.”

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Sam Raskin

Sam Raskin has reported for Politico New York, Gotham Gazette, Gothamist and Curbed New York.

Comments

  1. // This is problematic for many reasons, but the one question not being asked – in public – is why do blacks need to be with whites and Asians to learn? I know Carranza includes Hispanics when he talks about integration, but in my experience, Hispanics hate being lumped with blacks that way, and have no desire to be “integrated” with them. This in’t pretty, but it’s the truth. No other group cares if they attend school only with others from their own background, only blacks.

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