New York City schools chancellor Richard Carranza was on WNYC with Brian Lehrer on Monday, and a parent from PS 199 called in. Feelings at 199 are still raw after the chancellor tweeted a headline that said that parents at a recent meeting opposed a plan to “bring more black kids to their schools.”
The parent, who works as an educator, said she supports the diversity plan, but wants the city to commit to improving the schools where performance has lagged (see transcript below). Carranza made no direct commitment to funding for the district, but said the city wants to direct more money to students with fewer resources in general. He also said that the parent should attend upcoming anti-implicit bias training for educators. The city has committed $23 million over four years for training to help educators address their implicit biases.
District 3, which includes the Upper West Side, is currently discussing a plan that would insure that 25% of each middle school is made up of children who score below proficient on state exams. The city — which still hasn’t released any written document on the plan — says this will increase racial and ethnic diversity at the schools. “There is no formal plan, the superintendent has a scenario,” a DOE spokesman tells us.
The full transcript of the back-and-forth on WNYC is below, via Chalkbeat. The next meeting on this issue is Wednesday, May 16 at 6:30 p.m. at 134 West 122nd Street.
Caller: Hi Brian, huge fan. I try to call all the time; delighted to be on the program. Hi chancellor, I’m also a career educator and I’m a parent at P.S. 199. And I wanted to see your comment [on the matter]. A lot of us are very supportive of this initiative, but with limited faith in the efficacy of the DOE to carry it through. For example, no extra money is going to be allocated to the schools that will be affected.
I wanted ask you the motivation behind your late-night tweet. It was divisive, in my opinion. Again, I do support this initiative. And knowing that probably my kids will probably not get a seat at one of the very few decent middle schools, I want to know why the question wasn’t, ‘why aren’t there more stronger middle schools in District 3’ instead of blaming the parents in a very divisive way? Was it possibly that becomes a setup for when this doesn’t work out as well as people are gonna hope it is — that simply the parents can be blamed: Those Upper West Side parents are the reason that this initiative isn’t working?
Brian Lehrer: Debra when you say when it ultimately doesn’t work out as well as people hope, what are you anticipating?
Caller: I hope, I really hope there can be some changes. But I don’t see without funds for teacher development, I don’t see that space is an issue — everybody is just elbowing to get their kids into a good school. All the parents in District 3, not just the parents at P.S. 199, which is why I think such initiatives should be put forward. But to just shift the kids around without putting significant funds behind it, I’m skeptical. I’m still vocally supportive of it, but I have to say chancellor you stunned me because what I heard loud and clear: Me as a white parent in P.S. 199, I am not part of your constituency — my family, my children.
Richard Carranza: Yeah, so Debra first and foremost for the Teacher Appreciation Week, thank you for your service. It’s important — the work that you do each and every day.
Again, I’ve been really clear — the video speaks for itself. If that’s the kind of dialogue we want to have about very difficult conversations I will never support that kind of dialogue in a public meeting, I just won’t. And I think it’s important we shine the light of day when we have these kinds of conversations.
Now that being said, there’s some assumptions in what you said which are not true. So as we support our most historically underserved communities and schools, what we’re going to do is we’re going to put resources behind that. We’ve just secured in the budget millions of dollars for culturally relevant pedagogy training. I hope you will avail yourself of that training. We’re also going to be funding, and we’ve secured millions of dollars for anti- implicit bias training. Again, I hope you will avail yourself of that. In our community schools, we’ve set up opportunities for partnerships with local community-based organizations, non-profits, as well as governmental agencies that can provide the supports to students that are historically underserved in our cities and our communities.
As I’ve gone around for this first month of my tenure here, I’ve spoken in every borough and every community about an equity lens to make sure that we are prioritizing resources to students and communities that have historically not had that kind of support. The students that would take a seat in these schools if they come from those kinds of communities, those kinds of backgrounds, they have those kinds of needs — under a community schools approach we’re going to have resources there to serve them.
So again, a lot of assumptions in the question. And you know Brian, I’ve been asked a lot about, ‘well what are you doing tweeting at one in the morning?’ The honest truth is I’ve been working till 1, 2 in the morning. I spend my day out in the community. And I spend my evenings reading briefings about the DOE. So again I just want to make sure that we’re all part of the conversation and every parent, every community member that has a student in the New York City public schools is one of my constituents. You all matter.
In some communities, implicit bias training is also available for parents and other community members, though we are waiting to hear back on whether there is any upcoming training on the UWS.