New schools chancellor has his 1st day of school in NYC, a district many times larger than any he’s ever run

SOUNDVIEW, the Bronx —  New York City's 1.1 million public school students headed back to school from spring break and the new school's chancellor joined the them for his first day leading the entire school system Monday. It was clearly far too soon to see if he makes the grade.

Specifically, Richard Carranza comes to New York having headed up school systems in the past that are a fraction of its size. Now, whether or not Carranza can successfully oversee the country’s largest school system remains an open the question.

Carranza spent Monday touring schools in the Bronx as part of his initiative to spend each day this week in a different borough visiting schools.

At the first school, Concord Village Elementary, he began the school day leading students in applause, over their being selected as his first school to visit, and over what Carranza has described as strong performance by the school.

While parents who spoke with PIX11 News agree with that assessment, they could not say the same for New York City Public Schools overall.

"He's got a lot on his hands," one mother said about the new chancellor as she dropped her daughter off at Concourse Village Elementary. "I'd like to see him do more with failing schools so we can see more opportunities for our kids."

For his part, Chancellor Carranza acknowledged that the demands are many on the long road to improvement. He said that while reading, writing and arithmetic are important, in a city in which a large majority of students live at or below the poverty level, there are a variety of other needs, as well.

"Whether its homelessness, poverty, food insecurity, domestic violence, [they're] issues that follow students into the classroom," Carranza said.

"Community Schooling" is the shorthand term in educational circles for an approach by schools to try and meet all of those challenges. Carranza said that his past experience has helped to equip him.

He was a senior administrator in Clark County, Nevada, which includes the city of Las Vegas. From there, he became the head of all schools in San Francisco. Both areas under his leadership have fewer than 60,000 students.

Eighteen months ago, Carranza moved to Houston, Texas, where, as schools superintendent, he oversaw about 214,000 students. While there, he helped schools, and their students, try to cope with total losses of homes and facilities in the wake of Hurricane Harvey last summer.

In New York, however, the numbers, and, arguably, the needs are even greater. The city has five times as many students as Houston. In addition, the mayor -- not the schools chancellor -- controls the schools.

"You can see these kids being given the opportunity they didn't have before," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a no-questions-asked news conference at another Bronx School, P.S. 25, early Monday afternoon.

Chancellor Carranza repeated on Monday something he's said since taking the top educator job: he and Mayor De Blasio "are in lock step" when it comes to leading schools.

But while Carranza will run the schools day-to-day, he's not the only one working to teach New York City's children.

"It's not me. I'm part of an incredible team, called the Department of Education."

Carranza's schools tour continues throughout the week, with him visiting a different borough each day.