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Houston Superintendent Richard Carranza Hired As New NYC Schools Chancellor

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York City has a new leader of its public schools.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday the hiring of Richard A. Carranza as the city's next schools chancellor.

The former superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, a position he held since August of 2016, Carranza led the effort to re-open schools after Hurricane Harvey. He also previously served as the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, where he raised graduation rates to historic highs, de Blasio said. The mayor also touted Carranza's strong commitment to equity and excellence, and how he narrowed the achievement gap and turned around struggling schools in diverse districts.

"Richard Carranza understands the power of public education to change lives, and he has a proven record of strengthening public schools and lifting up students and families," de Blasio said in a statement. "He understands the tremendous work New York City educators do every day to put our children on the path to success. Richard is the right person to lead our school system forward as we build on the progress we've made over the past four years and make our vision of equity and excellence for every child a reality. Carmen Fariña leaves a tremendous legacy not only from her four years as chancellor, but as an inspiring and innovative educator and public servant for more than 50 years."

Carranza, 51, who will take over for retiring Farina at the end of March, said he's ready to hit the ground running. De Blasio said he will make the same base salary as he did in Houston, reportedly $345,000 a year.

"As the son of blue collar workers and a lifetime educator, it is an honor to serve New York City's 1.1 million children as schools chancellor," Carranza said. "I want to thank the mayor and first lady for the opportunity to join an administration that knows public education is an investment in our future. I will work every day to further the progress Chancellor Fariña has made in strengthening our public schools for generations to come."

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The announcement came four days after Miami-Dade County Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho turned down the job. Carvalho was apparently moved when dozens of Miami community members and school students showed up at an emergency board meeting and praised him and asked him to stay.

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De Blasio said that an agreement between him and Carvalho had been in place for more than a week and that Carvalho, himself, was deeply involved in the decision to go public with the news. As recently as last Wednesday night the mayor said he had spoken with Carvalho and that "all systems were go."

De Blasio said he received a call from Carvalho the following day during one of the recesses of the Miami school board in which Carvalho reversed himself.

"I stated the obvious: That I was very surprised and there should be more conversations if he was concerned," de Blasio said.

Cavalho's decision was met by anger by some in the de Blasio administration. The mayor simply vowed to move on.

And move on he did.

De Blasio somehow convinced Carranza to take the job despite the fact he was not the mayor's first choice.

During Monday's press conference, de Blasio said initially the job was down to two candidates, Carranza and Carvalho. The mayor said he made a different choice, but was very impressed with Carranza and hoped that someday he would have the privilege of working with him.

"Twenty four hours later, I was on the phone with Richard Carranza," de blasio said with a laugh. "As soon as things changed, I immediately reached out to Richard. I said, 'well, someday is today.'"

And the rest, as they say, is history. Carranza accepted the job as soon as it was offered, the mayor said.

Bill de Blasio Introduces Richard Carranza as Schools Chancellor
Richard Carranza and Bill de Blasio on Mar. 5, 2018. (credit: CBS2)

Originally from Tucson, Arizona, Carranza gave credit to his non-college educated parents for instilling in him a firm belief of the importance of education.

"I know that across this incredible city, the city of can-doers, New York City, that there are thousands upon thousands of parents who have the same aspirations that Simon and Dolores Carranza had for their twin boys," Carranza said.

"My trajectory has always been that of a teacher. I consider myself a teacher now," Carranza added. "Where I used to work with children in classrooms, I now work with adults in bigger environments. I still make it a point every week to visit classrooms. That's where I find my inspiration. That's where I find my strength. And quite frankly, that's where I find the good things that are happening as we think about educating our children. But make no mistake, my friends, education is the cornerstone of our democracy. It is the great equalizer. It is the great empowerer of the next generation. And right now as we speak the 1.1 million children in New York are the future taxpayers of New York. They are the future doctors and lawyers and teachers. They are the future mayors. They are the future of this vibrant city, which is like no other in the United States. So it's a great honor that we have every day to serve those children in the best way that we can."

Farina said de Blasio could not have done a better job finding her replacement.

"I am thrilled Richard will be New York City schools chancellor," Farina said. "We are philosophically on the same page and he has a proven track record as an educator with a laser focus on what's in the classroom. He's made critical investments in professional development, strengthened the leadership pipeline for principals and has immersed himself in the community to empower families. Every step of his career, he's focused on equity for all not just some. I know he will deepen the Equity & Excellence agenda and bring new ideas that will make New York City better."

United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew was equally pleased with the hire.

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

New Superintendent Richard Carranza sings with Sam Houston and Northside High School Mariachis by Houston Independent School District on YouTube

A married father of two, Carranza is fluent in Spanish and an accomplished mariachi musician.

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