New York City schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and other top education leaders mounted a defense of their administration’s hiring practices and anti-bias training in the face of news articles alleging they created a “toxic” culture demeaning to white staffers.
Some high-ranking education officials wore light blue as a sign of solidarity Tuesday and more than 100 people gathered on the steps of Tweed, the lower Manhattan headquarters of the department, for a brief demonstration. Others took to Twitter to stand by Carranza and the administrators he elevated in a staffing shake-up shortly after his arrival.
Their response was an unusually public and collective rebuke of claims in a series of New York Post articles, which cited anonymous sources complaining that qualified white administrators had lost their jobs to less effective managers of color.
It’s unclear how widespread Tuesday’s action was. Some education department employees entering Tweed headquarters that morning said they were unaware of the protest.
Carranza has defined his chancellorship by bluntly speaking about the need to address how race and class intertwine with educational outcomes. Not long after taking the helm of the system last April, he announced the city would invest more than $20 million to make sure administrators and teachers receive anti-bias training — something parent advocates had long lobbied for.
Some parents and longtime education department observers have praised the trainings as well as the chancellor’s personnel decisions. He has pared down the executive cabinet and named some veteran administrators to more senior posts, while appearing to demote others and even forcing some long-time employees out.
Anonymous staff members are quoted in the Post pieces, which criticize the hiring decisions and elements of the training, including an exercise on “white supremacy culture.” A lawyer expected to file a lawsuit on behalf of employees who were either fired or demoted, none of whom are cited, did not return requests for comment from Chalkbeat.
On Tuesday, Carranza was among those wearing light blue, a color that is often used by colleges and universities to represent education majors. So were his Deputy Chief of Staff, David Hay, the department’s Executive Director of Community Schools, Chris Caruso, and Brandon Cardet-Hernandez, a former Bronx principal who now works as an education policy advisor for the mayor’s office.
Paul Forbes, who helps oversee the anti-bias workshops for the department, said plenty of educators have been doing similar work for years and now feel buoyed by the chancellor’s commitment. Friction is to be expected, he said.
“If we’re talking about moving the needle and creating change, then we all will go through these growing pains,” Forbes said. “I hope that future generations will look back and say, ‘Thank you for your leadership here.’”
After a city council budget hearing on Monday, Carranza told reporters he stood by the changes he has overseen.
“We have qualified people that are absolutely doing wonderful things for students across the city and I think it’s a good thing as well that they reflect the diversity of the city,” he said.
Reema Amin contributed reporting.