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Three Brooklyn lawmakers want a new, less ‘divisive’ schools chancellor

A trio of Brooklyn legislators are a part of a new legislative coalition calling on the mayor to ditch the city’s “divisive” schools chancellor.

Queens Councilmember Robert Holden wrote to Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday to say that if New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza “continues to divide this city, then someone who can unite” it should replace him.

Since assuming his role in April 2018, Carranza has come under fire for his push to eliminate the city’s Specialized High School Admissions Test. The former Texas principal and son of Mexican immigrants has echoed de Blasio’s allegations that the exam promotes a lack of diversity in the institutions’ enrollment rates.

He has also found himself on the defendant’s end of a lawsuit filed by three white veteran Department of Education administrators, all women, who claim Carranza either demoted them or pushed them aside for less qualified people of color.

While Carranza has denied such claims, in the new letter, first obtained by the New York Post, Holden contends that the chancellor “has been rightfully focused on creating a more equitable school system, but his comments and actions have seemingly made the system even more divided.”

Eight bipartisan politicians co-signed the address – among them, Brooklyn Councilmember Chaim Deutsch and Assemblymembers Peter Abbate and William Colton.

Colton, who has vocally opposed the elimination of the SHSAT, alleged that the chancellor is “pitting one group against another.”

“I fear his words branding some groups as ‘privileged’ and advocating for selection for admission of specialized high school to be by such factors as race and geographic locations of schools, rather than by merit will distract from the real function of the [chancellor] to improve the education of all children,” he said in a statement.

The SHSAT is currently administered to eighth- and ninth-grade students in order to determine admission to all but one of the city’s nine specialized high schools.

Under the plan being pushed by both the mayor and Carranza, the exam would be replaced by a new enrollment system that would allow the top seven percent of students in each of the city’s middle schools to gain admission to specialized high schools.

Abbate alleged that Carranza is “politicalizing [students’] futures.”

The southwest Brooklyn assemblymember told the Eagle in a statement that, since taking office, the chancellor has spent $2.5 million on “new layers of executive supervisors” while “demoting and forcing into retirement” long-time agency employees.

“Instead of promoting a department that cultivates and nourishes the needs of children, Chancellor Carranza has shown a sense of disrespect and disservice to their educational needs, especially the children of my district. He has been in office for over a year and he has not requested a meeting with me as all other previous Chancellors have in the past,” Abbate said.

“We need a Chancellor who will put the future of children first and foremost since they are our priority. It is not about enhancing the positions of his friends and allies.”

Two members of the council’s Education Committee — Joseph Borelli of Staten Island and Eric Ulrich of Queens — also signed the letter, as well as Queens Councilmembers Karen Kozlowitz, Paul Varrone and Peter Koo.

Brooklyn Councilmember Antonio Reynoso spoke out in defense of Carranza Monday morning.

“Chancellor Carranza inherited a public school system with glaring racial disparities … Inequity in our schools is not a new phenomenon, but rather one with complex origins and systemic roots,” he said in a statement.

To that end, Reynoso added, “this is not a zero sum game.”

“Chancellor Carranza’s actions may seem threatening to those who thrive under the current system but they are exactly the kind of decisive, bold intervention that we need to make our school system fair and accessible for all students,” he said.

The Department of Education referred the Eagle to a statement from the Mayor’s Office.

“It’s a sad day for New York City kids when lawmakers care more about seeing their names in the press than about our school system,” said Press Secretary Freddi Goldstein. “This racially-charged smear campaign is the only thing dividing our city and anyone backing it should be ashamed. We stand with Chancellor Carranza and thank him for all he’s doing to bring Equity and Excellence to all our kids.”

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