NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Does getting hired for a top job at the city Department of Education depend on your on race?
That's the charge in a stunning $90 million lawsuit filed against School Chancellor Richard Carranza by three senior white educators.
They say they were demoted in favor of less-qualified minority educators as part of a crusade to make the agency's top management reflect the ethic makeup of students, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported Wednesday.
He was smiling and shaking hands, but Carranza faced a buzzsaw when he walked into the cafeteria of a Bronx school.
When Kramer informed Carranza that she had in her hand a copy of the lawsuit charging him with reverse discrimination and with creating a toxic atmosphere for white employees, his response was, "Absolutely not true."
"We have the truth on our side. Allegations can be made," he added.
Web Extra: Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza Takes Questions:
The suit filed by Lois Herrera, Jaye Murray and Laura Feijoo -- three white women and senior administrators who were demoted by Carranza -- tells a different tale. They say they were left by the wayside in Carranza's push to make sure his top staff reflected the fact that 70 percent of city students are minority.
Carranza cleaned house when he took over. Reportedly more than a dozen top-dog superintendents and deputies who served under former Chancellor Carmen Farina were demoted or forced to retire. The suit claims Carranza made his position clear during a June 27, 2018, speech to upper echelon employees at Tweed -- otherwise known as DOE headquarters.
"If you draw a paycheck from DOE," you will either "get on board with (his) equity platform or leave," Carranza is charged with saying.
When asked if he said that and if so what was meant by it, Carranza said, "I did not say that, absolutely did not say that. I give pep talks to the employees of the DOE all the time," adding, "It's critically important that we remain focused on our mission. Let me be really clear: our mission is to serve every one of the 1.1 million students under our care. That's our mission. And if your agenda is not to serve our students, if your agenda is an adult agenda and not a student agenda then perhaps the Department of Education is not the right department for you to work in."
Davida Perry, the attorney for the three women, claims Carranza's push to re-tool the agency violates New York City human rights law.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted that personnel decisions, "are made based on merit and these are no exception."
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