Native New Yorker and longtime educator Meisha Ross Porter is about to become the first Black woman to run New York City public schools, the country’s largest school system.
PIX11’s Dan Mannarino spoke with Porter on Tuesday in a wide-ranging interview about her experience as both an educator and student in the city, and her plans for the future.
Her experience so far
Porter, who most recently served as the Bronx executive superintendent, recounted her journey through the NYC school system, first as a student and later as an educator.
“I’ve worked at every level of the system, and I think for folks in New York City, that’s the traditional route that the people are looking for,” she said.
Inequality in NYC schools
As a product of the city’s schools herself, Porter spoke of her personal experience with inequity in the system from an early age.
“I’m not gonna shy away from that reality. Our system is segregated and it is very real,” she said. “Chancellor Carranza has started to do some important work of interrupting those systems, and I look forward to continuing that work.”
Porter said she thinks an important first step, as more students being to return to the classroom, is looking at the curriculum and how students see themselves in the learning.
“We just have to really create opportunities and access for all students across our system,” she said.
Mother of an NYC student
Porter isn’t just part of the system professionally, she also has a daughter in 10th grade at a city high school.
“I’m making the same decisions that every single New York City public school parent is making,” she said.
Porter believes this two-sided experience has armed her with the experience needed to do the job with care.
Responding to critics
Some have questioned if Porter has enough experience to lead city schools.
Responding confidently, Porter said, “Twenty-plus years as an educator is all the experience that I need.”
Porter also directly took on a 2019 report that she celebrated her then promotion to executive superintendent with a lavish, over-the-top gala.
“The party was a celebration not just for me, but for the Bronx. I’m looking forward to continuing to do great work and move our system forward with all that I know and have learned from being a student in it, and a leader in it,” she said.
Looking ahead to the new school year
“I’m tackling this full steam ahead. I’m looking at the next 10 months – there is so much to do, that that’s all I really have time to think about,” Porter said.
The educator spoke on ensuring all students are caught up and on the same page when they return to the classroom.
“The first thing to do is to assess where our students are,” Porter said. “Not just their academic spaces…there’s also a social and emotional gap, so we really need to address our students in their whole selves.”
Porter said she is looking forward to using new tools educators discovered during the pandemic to identify specific learning needs that individual students may have.
“In the fall, really using the health, medical recommendations, making the best decisions to open as fully as we possibly can,” she said.
Porter said her department is in the process of planning for summer school, which she believes will likely be a combination of remote and in-person learning.
“But I’m looking for summer school to be the launch into our new school year,” she said.