Last week, newly appointed New York City Schools Chancellor, Mr. Richard A. Carranza hosted student journalists from various high schools at Tweed Courthouse in downtown Manhattan. At this event, students networked with peers, cultivated their talents as school journalists, and develop a greater sense of agency by asking the chancellor about pressing issues.
WHSAD’s student correspondent, Antonio Perez, attended and provides his thoughts on and the questions and answers from the session.
On Wednesday, May 9, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend a journalists’ meeting with the newly appointed NYC school chancellor, Richard Carranza. The meeting was extremely important because students were able to ask questions about how the Chancellor plans on managing NYC schools. The part that was most interesting was that any questions were allowed; any topic that students felt adamant about was on the table. The Chancellor took his time with each question and gave us his most honest response. You could tell that he truly cares and wants us to grow as a community. The overall experience was rewarding and if given the opportunity to participate in an event like this again, I can say with utmost certainty that I will accept the opportunity.
The Chancellor was able to answer questions that are relevant to today’s society:
Q: “Given the recent events with the Parkland shooting, what are you doing/what initiatives are you planning to ensure that we have school safety?”
A: Chancellor Carranza said: “I’ll tell you uniformly across all five boroughs everywhere in New York City, every town hall a student said to me that “we want to make sure that our schools are safe but we do not want our schools to look like prisons.” They said they don’t want metal detectors or dogs sniffing through the hallways.We don’t want to be wanded when we walk in, we don’t want fences, we don’t want razor wire. The very things that adults say we need to have in schools, not the least of which students uniformly said giving teachers, arming teachers with guns is probably the dumbest idea they’ve ever heard. I say we create, help and nurture environments in schools where students can feel safe and then empowered that when they hear something or suspect something, or know something they know who to go tell in that school and know that they are going to be anonymous and that officials are going to follow up on it.”
Q: “How do you intend to desegregate schools and create a greater access and opportunities to those who are of low socioeconomic backgrounds or students in general?”
A: Chancellor Carranza said: “The schools in NYC don’t belong to the chancellor, they belong to the public, they are public schools. So if they are public schools, then we should make sure that we’ve eliminated as many obstacles and barriers for students to be able to have a choice as possible. That means that if we have admissions protocols that are a disadvantage to groups of students we should look at that and change that. If we have regulations that only allow certain students to go to certain schools yet the schools belong to the public, I believe we should look at that and change that. I believe that our schools belong to the public and we live in one of the most diverse cities in the world, NYC, then how can it be okay knowing that we’re setting up barriers for sadness to have an option of going to a different school.”
Q: “How are you going to ensure that racial tracking and social segregation inside of desegregated schools.”
A: Chancellor Carranza said: “Highlight the great things that are happening at your school. Equity is not the same as equality, no matter where you are, people come to schools with different obstacles, different challenges that they have to overcome. Some communities have many more obstacles, some communities have less obstacles. But if the goal is we’re going to graduate everyone college and career ready, we know that for students to be able to meet the bar we’re not going to lower the bar. What we’re going to do is provide more resources to help students overcome those obstacles.”
Q: “How do you plan on raising awareness to students in high school settings that who are experiencing significant obstacles with educational opportunities that lead to a High School Diploma or the programs that the district offers?”
A: Chancellor Carranza said: “Every school in our system has counselors, administrators and teachers. We recognize that there isn’t a one size fits all students, students have different needs, they need to vary. One of thing I’m really proud of is teachers and administrators in our school system are starting to very much look for the student who may not have that desire in that particular school and might need a different option.”
Q: “What other ways can we help students prepare for the college process?”
A: Chancellor Carranza said: “We’re increasing the number of counselor positions in our schools so that we want to make sure that there are counselors who are working with our students early, and I’m not just talking about high school, I’m talking about middle school. Thinking about and preparing for what kind of study or what kind of course of study they may want to have.”
Q: “With everything that is happening right now in the country, how are you planning to protect immigrant students in New York City, especially undocumented ones. Also what are some plans that you may put into action that will facilitate the way for undocumented students to go up?”
A: Chancellor Carranza said: “The Supreme Court guarantees a student a right to a public education by the mere fact that they live in the neighborhood or city that the school is located in. There is rhetoric nationally that says all of these undocumented and all of these immigrants have no right to these schools. No. The Supreme Court already decided this. You have a right to an education, and you don’t have to give immigration paperwork. You don’t have to prove your status, just because you’re breathing in and out and you live in the neighborhood you get to go to the school.”
Q: “Why do you think diversity is significant in the education learning zone?”
A: When you graduate from high school, you are going to go into the world that is diverse. If you go to college, you’ll also go to a college that is diverse and once you compete for a job, you are not competing with students from New York, you are competing with the world. Diversity is important because that is the world. If you ask a community what is the future of the community, it is the children. So if you are taking care of the children you are taking care of the future.”
These topics address extremely relevant social issues occurring in today’s society. Many of these issues come in contact directly with our human rights and disrupt the ways of living and learning not just for NYC students but students worldwide. Every student goes to school to learn and expand his or her knowledge, and there is no reason why a student should be discriminated against or suffer because of unjust and unfair social changes. All students should have a fair and equal base in school, no one should be naturally ahead, and no one should be naturally behind. All students deserve the chance and the opportunity to be able to come to school and not have to worry about anything but school. Once we get rid of the unjust and disgusting obstacles that many “underprivileged” students face into today’s society, then maybe it is then, that we can start living and working in a more equal environment and just work and learn. Yet again we are all human; our race, religion, color, sexual orientation, and or gender should NOT play a role in how we perform in school and should never determine who we are as a person or what we can do.
-Antonio Perez, WHSAD Student Correspondent