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Exclusive Interview With Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter During Her First Day On The Job

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Meisha Ross Porter began her first day as chancellor of New York City schools Monday, and she's starting with many challenges ahead.

Ross Porter set the tone on day one, touring PS 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where she saw the impact of the pandemic which she's now responsible for navigating.

As CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported, she was escorted to various classrooms by two students who showed her the reality of attending school in a pandemic - from where families pick up grab-and-go lunches, to a class where a teacher has to navigate in-person and virtual learning at the same time.

"What's the big change parents will see?" Cline-Thomas asked.

"I think the big change parents will see is, one, one of their own at the helm of the school system and, two, somebody who is really ready to hear from parents, all parents, not one group of parents," Ross Porter said.

Watch: Exclusive Interview With Meisha Ross Porter

Unlike most jobs, there's no grace period. Cline-Thomas sat down exclusively with Ross Porter on her first day as she forges the difficult road ahead.

"I think it starts with getting them back in school and getting their families comfortable with them being here," Ross Porter said.

High schools reopen in March 22nd, and planning for a more robust summer school is underway.

"This summer, we have to think about multiple groups of students and what they've experienced and what they need to build summer as a bridge back to opening in September," Ross Porter said.

"The reality is that students are falling behind," Cline-Thomas said.

"One of the things that we've learned from this pandemic is how to leverage technology to develop individual learning plans for students, that identify and address their learning gaps," Ross Porter said.

Collaboration is central to her strategy.

"How do you take care of educators right now when students have so many needs?" asked Cline-Thomas.

"Look, we're going to come back in schools, where people haven't been together and they've experienced loss. And they haven't had a moment to grieve that loss," said Ross Porter. "We have to take a pause and acknowledge that as we build our school system back together."

Ross Porter - a New York City public school graduate, longtime educator and the first Black woman to serve as chancellor - says she's ready for the challenge.

"What do you tell your younger self?" Cline-Thomas asked.

"My wish to little Meisha is to know every moment in your life has led to this moment right now, so you can show up for all of the little girls and all of the little boys in this whole city," Ross Porter said.

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