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Queens Chronicle

Council members call out Carranza

Mayor erupts at challenge to his school chancellor’s race rhetoric

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Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2019 10:30 am

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and City Councilman Robert Holden (D-Middle Village) are both relative newcomers to the mixed-martial-arts world of city politics.

Carranza was hired only 16 months ago, when Holden had been in office barely four months.

But the two newcomers this week are at the center of a suddenly bitter fight over education policy in the nation’s largest school district, New York.

Last Saturday, Holden sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio, co-signed by a bipartisan group of fellow Council members and two members of the state Assembly, warning that Carranza was “divisive.”

The letter suggested that if Carranza did not tone down his remarks about the role of race in the system, “then someone who can unite this city and provide a quality education for all should replace him.”

Queens Councilmembers Peter Vallone (D-Bayside), Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) were among the co-signers.

The mayor’s reaction to what Holden called “a letter of concern” was swift and blunt.

“All the folks who signed that letter should be ashamed of themselves,” de Blasio told NY1, the local cable news channel.

“Richard Carranza is not going anywhere.”

“I was surprised by the letter,” said Alina Adams, an author of several books on the city school system and a regular writer for the popular parents blog, New York School Talk.

“Frankly, it didn’t seem politically savvy to send,” she said. “I wonder what they thought they would get out of it?”

Holden, a former college professor and civic leader who had not held office before, said the impetus to write the letter came about two weeks ago, after three high-level officials, all women, at the Department of Education sued claiming they’d been demoted and replaced by three women of color who were less qualified.

“The children in New York City — 70 percent of whom are black and brown children — get to see senior level administrators that look like them. What’s wrong with that?” the chancellor said in response to the suit.

“This is the kind of atmosphere Carranza is creating,” Holden told the Chronicle. “I don’t think he understands how New York operates.”

Drafts of the letter circulated among the signers for more than a week before it was fired off to the Mayor, he said.

“We wanted to give the mayor a way out and not just say he should be fired right away,” Holden said.

He said he was “surprised” by the mayor’s pointed response. “I thought it was insulting and nasty,” Holden said.

Other members of the Council have come to Carranza’s defense, including Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn, Queens), whose district includes part of Ridgewood, and Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans).

“Chancellor Carranza inherited a public school system with glaring racial disparities,” Reynoso said. He said he was “saddened” to see him “come under attack.”

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