In her Twitter bio, incoming Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter describes herself in part as a “Disruptor, Leader and Teacher!!” — in that order. But disruption is the last thing New York City schoolchildren need right now. What they need is calmness, a steady hand, a grade-A manager who can lead a return to normalcy after the last year of crisis and the even longer contentious term of outgoing Chancellor Richard Carranza.
Carranza leaves the city’s children in the lurch, departing in the middle of the slow reopening of schools that his direct boss, Mayor de Blasio, has correctly insisted must move forward (though too slowly for our taste). In so doing Carranza also thumbs his nose at his true bosses, the taxpayers, especially the parents of public-school students, who had to suffer his ideological attacks on excellence and race-based animus toward many of the people he was supposed to serve. This page had suggested he resign more than a year ago, after he walked out of a meeting with parents; we even offered up a letter of resignation he could have used. But he didn’t. Too bad. If we had someone in his position when the virus came who had the strength to see the reopening through to the end, we’d have been better off.
Will Porter have that strength? We hope so. Remote learning — necessary earlier in the virus crisis when we knew less about Covid-19 and were not as well-equipped to combat it — has been a failure for far too many students. The data are clear that kids can safely be taught in their schools.
First and foremost, Porter and de Blasio have to get high school kids back in the classroom as soon as possible. They cannot be left hanging until September (and if the teachers union has any ideas about not being in school in person every day by then, de Blasio should make clear that he will enforce the terms of their contract). Porter also must make amends to many of our best students by stopping the attacks on screened schools, Gifted & Talented programs and the specialized high schools. We should encourage excellence, not repress it. And from our new chancellor, we should expect it. Rarely have we needed leadership as much as we do now.