making moves

As school year ends, Carranza announces major changes at New York City’s education department

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
Chancellor Richard Carranza

Just three months into his tenure leading the nation’s largest school system, schools chancellor Richard Carranza announced a major personnel shake-up at the city’s Department of Education.

The sweeping new structure is meant to “streamline” the way principals and district superintendents are supported by creating another level of executive superintendents, the education department said.

The effort to create clear lines of command is reminiscent of a reorganization that former Chancellor Carmen Fariña instituted when she took the helm of the nation’s largest school system. However, the overhaul is also likely meant to correct for some elements of Fariña’s plan that have drawn criticism, including from principals who complained they weren’t always sure where to go to seek support. In addition, the changes appear to demote or revise the responsibilities of several key leaders who served under Fariña.

Dorita Gibson, who served as Fariña’s top deputy, and oversaw the entire school support system, will now serve as an “executive advisor” on community engagement. Elizabeth Rose, another Fariña deputy, will become the “CEO for school operations.”

Phil Weinberg, who served as a deputy chancellor under Fariña, will now report to the chief academic officer — instead of reporting directly to the chancellor. Milady Baez, another deputy who oversaw English learners, has left the education department entirely.

The new structure will introduce nine new executive superintendents to the system’s governance — a level of oversight that didn’t previously exist. This new leadership will oversee both the district superintendents who manage school principals and the Field Support Centers that provide help to principals with everything from budgeting to teacher training. The change appears to address a complaint sometimes voiced by school leaders that it was not clear who is directly responsible for supporting schools, since the superintendents did not directly supervise the field support centers.

“Principals have shared that they sometimes receive conflicting messages from multiple offices within the DOE,” Carranza wrote in a report based on his “listening tour” that was also released Wednesday. “My takeaway is that we need to communicate more clearly and consistently with educators, parents, and stakeholders.”

Those nine new executive superintendents, who have not yet been hired, will be overseen by Cheryl Watson-Harris, who will serve as First Deputy Chancellor.

Watson-Harris led the field support offices since 2017, but her role recently expanded to oversee the Renewal turnaround program for struggling schools — and she was even rumored to be a chancellor candidate, prior to Carranza’s appointment.

Also rising in the ranks of the chancellor’s inner-circle, LaShawn Robinson will serve as the Deputy Chancellor of School Climate & Wellness, who will oversee the district’s vision for supporting students socially and emotionally.

Karin Goldmark, who served as senior education advisor to First Deputy Mayors Dean Fuleihan and Anthony Shorris, will become the Deputy Chancellor of School Planning & Development and lead efforts to open new schools, as well as coordinate with charter schools.

In the announcement on Wednesday, Carranza said he made the decisions based on feedback he received while touring the district after taking the reins from Fariña in April.

Fariña’s changes were largely meant to give more power to superintendents to shape instruction and oversee principals. They were a reaction to the power structure ushered in by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who favored giving principals more authority to make decisions about their schools.

While some argued the Bloomberg-style leadership structure didn’t provide enough support or guardrails for principals, many principals felt overcome with too much paperwork and too little autonomy under Fariña. It’s unclear whether Carranza’s new structure will become an additional burden on principals or help alleviate some of the pressure they are under.

Here are other positions to note:

  • A new position of Chief Academic Officer was created but is unfilled.
  • Phil Weinberg’s new title: Deputy Chief Academic Officer for the Division of Teaching & Learning.
  • Corinne Rello-Anselmi’s new title: Deputy Chief Academic Officer of Special Education and Student Services.
  • Mariano Guzmán is the interim Deputy Chief Academic Officer of English Language Learners and Student Support.
  • Josh Wallack will continue as Deputy Chancellor of Early Education and Student Enrollment.
  • Ursulina Ramirez will continue as Chief Operating Officer.
  • In May, Carranza appointed Edie Sharp, a former aide to Mayor Bill de Blasio, as his chief of staff.



The education department’s new organizational chart.

New leader

District chief Joris Ray named Memphis schools’ interim leader

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat
Joris Ray, center, was appointed interim superintendent for Shelby County Schools.

Joris Ray, who started his 22-year career as a teacher in Memphis schools, will be the interim superintendent for Shelby County Schools.

The school board voted 5-4 Tuesday evening to appoint Ray, who as a member of Superintendent Dorsey Hopson’s cabinet oversees the district’s academic operations and student support. An audience composed mostly of educators applauded the announcement.

“A lot of people call Dr. Ray, and he gets things done,” Hopson said at the meeting.

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
Dorsey Hopson and Joris Ray, right.

Ray could be at the helm of Tennessee’s largest district for anywhere from 8 months to 18 months, as the board looks to hire a permanent leader, Board Chair Shante Avant said. Hopson is leaving the 200-school, 111,600-student district after nearly six years; he will lead an education initiative at the health insurer Cigna, effective Jan. 8.

Hopson will still help Ray transition into his new role a few weeks after his resignation takes effect because of his current contract terms.

Ray, a graduate of Whitehaven High School, said he intends to apply for the permanent position.

“I’m about pushing things forward. No sense in looking back,” told reporters Tuesday, noting that his goal, as he gets started, is “to listen, to get out to various community groups and transition with the superintendent … but also I want to talk to teachers and I want to talk to students because oftentimes they’re left out of the education process.”

The other two nominees to serve as interim superintendent were Lin Johnson, the district’s chief of finance, and Carol Johnson, a former superintendent of Memphis schools.

Hopson commended both Lin Johnson and Ray as “truly my brothers in this work.” He also acknowledged the work Carol Johnson has done in recent years to train teachers in her role as director of New Leaders in Memphis.

Some school board members wanted to preclude the interim appointee from applying for the permanent post — especially if the interim selection was an in-district hire — but a resolution formalizing that position failed in a 6-3 vote.

“If it were me… I’d think twice about going up against that person to take the job. I really would,” Teresa Jones, a board member, said. But she said she wants to create an environment “where individuals feel where they can come forward and apply” for the superintendent job.

The appointment comes one day after Hopson presented a plan to combine 28 aging school buildings into 10 new ones. Ray said he will look to get community input before pursuing the plan while he is at the helm.

“We need to continue to unpack the plan,” Ray said after the meeting. “And I rely on the community to get their input. But most of all, it’s what’s best for students.”

There’s more from the meeting in this Twitter thread:

Movers and shakers

These Colorado lawmakers will shape education policy in 2019

PHOTO: Joe Amon/The Denver Post
Colorado House of Representatives

When the Colorado General Assembly convenes in January, Democrats will control both chambers for the first time since 2014. That shift in the balance of power, along with a lot of turnover in both chambers, means new faces on the committees that will shape education policy.

The incoming committee chairs in both chambers  — state Rep. Barbara McLachlan of Durango and state Sen. Nancy Todd of Aurora — are former teachers themselves and experienced lawmakers. One of the incoming members, representative-elect Bri Buentello of Pueblo, is currently a special education teacher. The ranking Republican on the House Education Committee, state Rep. Jim Wilson of Salida, is also a former teacher and school superintendent. He’s the only Republican returning to the committee from the previous session.

In the House, Democrats now hold a three-seat majority on the committees responsible for deciding which bills will advance to a floor vote. In the Senate, Democrats have a one-vote advantage on most committees.

The new Democratic majorities open the possibility of advancing issues that once stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate, like funding full-day kindergarten — a priority of incoming governor Jared Polis — and expanding access to mental health services in school. But these decisions will have to be made without major new revenue and in competition with other budget needs. Democrats may also have to grapple with disagreements among their own ranks on charter schools, teacher evaluations, and school choice, issues that have long enjoyed bipartisan consensus. 

But one newly appointed member of the Senate Education Committee won’t serve out his term. State Sen. Daniel Kagan, a Democrat from Cherry Hills Village, recently announced he’ll resign in January following accusations that he repeatedly used a women’s restroom in the state Capitol. State Rep. Jeff Bridges, a Democrat from Greenwood Village, has announced his intention to seek the vacancy and could take Kagan’s place on the education committee.

The other new Democrat on the Senate committee, Tammy Story, has a long record as an education advocate in Jefferson County. She worked to recall school board members there that supported charters and performance-based teacher pay.

Senator-elect Paul Lundeen, a Republican from Monument, is a former member of the State Board of Education and served on the House Education Committee. State Sen. Owen Hill of Colorado Springs, the ranking Republican on the committee, is the former chair.

House Education Committee:


Chair: Rep. Barbara McLachlan, Durango

Vice-Chair, rep.-elect Bri Buentello, Pueblo

Rep. Janet Buckner, Aurora

Rep. James Coleman, Denver

Rep.-elect Lisa Cutter, Jefferson County

Rep. Tony Exum Sr., Colorado Springs

Rep.-elect Julie McCluskie, Dillon

Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, Commerce City


Ranking member: Rep. Jim Wilson, Salida

Rep.-elect Mark Baisley, Roxborough Park

Rep.-elect Tim Geitner, Colorado Springs

Rep.-elect Colin Larson, Ken Caryl

Rep. Kim Ransom, Littleton

Senate Education Committee:


Chair: Nancy Todd, Aurora

Vice-Chair: sen.-elect Tammy Story, Conifer

Sen. Daniel Kagan, Cherry Hills Village


Ranking member: Sen. Owen Hill, Colorado Springs

Sen.-elect Paul Lundeen, Monument