On Monday, as much of the Lone Star State was gearing up for primary day, an announcement sent shockwaves through the Houston education community. Houston ISD Superintendent Richard Carranza is leaving to head up New York City’s public school system – after only 18 months on the job.
Laura Isensee, education reporter for Houston Public Media, says money is probably not Carranza’s motivation.
“He’s going to be making about the same in New York that he’s been making here in Houston, which is $345,000 a year,” Isensee says. “But it definitely is a more prestigious position. Being the chancellor of New York City schools is kind of the cream of the crop in the public education world.”
The prestige is not the only factor driving Carranza’s decision.
“Carranza has had to deal with a pretty polarized board,” Isensee says. “He’s struggled to enact some of his vision.”
This includes his turnaround plan for struggling schools and an overhaul to the system of specialty or magnet schools. He hasn’t always had the board’s support. Still, his decision to leave came as a shock to many on the school board.
“I think there’s some insiders who maybe saw some signs that maybe he wouldn’t stick around for the rest of his three-year contract,” Isensee says. “The board members didn’t know he was in New York on Monday until there was the announcement.”
Carranza’s departure presents an array of challenges for the school district, some of which have been endemic since before the superintendent came on board.
“The board is really rallying and trying to show a unified front,” Isensee says. “The Houston mayor says he is standing shoulder to shoulder with them and that they’re going to get through this.”
Isensee says it’s unclear how the school board will go about finding a replacement. But the issue has brought up a question of confidence going forward.
“There have been so many challenges and some polarizing proposals,” Isensee says. “Some people aren’t feeling very confident in where HISD is going.”
Written by Jeremy Steen.