NEW YORK: New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said on Friday he was stepping down as leader of the nation's largest school district, leaving at a time when city officials are scrambling to bring students back to classrooms safely.
Carranza, who was tapped by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2018 to run the district of nearly 1.1 million school children, said he would depart on March 15 to take "time to grieve" after losing several family members and friends to Covid-19.
De Blasio named Meisha Porter as Carranza's successor. Currently serving as executive superintendent in the city's Bronx borough, Porter will become the district's first Black female chancellor.
"This school system deserves a chancellor who 100% is taking up the helm and leading the charge to bringing everybody back in September," Carranza said at a news briefing on Friday.
New York City schools have oscillated between a hybrid learning model and all-remote learning since the fall.
The mayor shut down school buildings in mid-November due to an increasing Covid-19 infection rate and has gradually brought students back to classrooms, starting with the youngest students. Earlier this week, middle school students returned to school buildings, while all instruction for high school students remains virtual.
"The first thing I'm looking forward to is reopening high school, and focusing in on how we reopen schools fully in September," Porter told reporters on Friday.
Carranza is the second high-profile member of de Blasio's administration to depart in the midst of the health crisis in recent months, following the resignation of New York City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot in August.
Carranza's departure coincides with his mounting disagreement with de Blasio over how to eliminate entrenched segregation in the city's schools, the New York Times reported.
Carranza has voiced support for eliminating standardized tests for pre-school children's admission into gifted programs that historically have tended to favor admission for white and Asian students.
The city's school district is predominantly non-white, with Hispanic students making up 41%, followed by Blacks at 26%, Asians at 16% and whites at 15%. White and Asian-American students comprise about 75% of the city’s gifted offerings, according to the Times.
De Blasio said on Friday that the city would announce plans to revamp admissions for its gifted student program admission for September under Chancellor Porter.