Meisha Ross Porter Chosen to Lead NYC Schools
All eyes are on NYC this week as Mayor Bill DeBlasio appointed a new schools Chancellor to replace resigning Richard Carranza.
As Chancellor, Meisha Ross Porter will be the first Black woman to lead the nation’s largest school system. Porter is a native New Yorker and has served in every level in the Department of Education throughout her career in the Bronx. She has served as a community organizer, teacher, Assistant Principal, Principal and Superintendent, and in 2019 she was appointed as Executive Superintendent of the Bronx.
Outgoing Chancellor Carranza made significant policy change around racial equity in the nation’s largest school system throughout his three-year term in a position that brought him much contention and push-back throughout the city. The pandemic brought another wave of unprecedented challenges to the city that further exacerbated and highlighted the vast racial disparities in education, health care and socio-economic systems for Black and Brown communities.
Historically, Black women in leadership roles have been attacked through micro aggressions, lawsuits, and negative media coverage. Porter has seen her share of mud-slinging as the Executive Superintendent of the Bronx and kept her vision focused on schools.
Here’s what they aren’t going to tell you. Full disclosure: I’m biased. This author is a Black educator who was first hired by Principal Porter in the South Bronx many years ago. I won’t bore you with the details, but Ms. Porter is my forever Principal.
Porter’s leadership skills are humanizing and skillful. Through her leadership style, it is apparent that Porter’s primary focus is to center students first. Porter is a product of New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) schools and a parent to NYCDOE students. She is also a daughter, a sister, a mother, a wife, and a friend, among many other roles. She is a great listener, orator and writer.
Porter is a racial equity warrior. She doesn’t shy away from asking the hard questions and advocating for the best of the best regarding NYC’s historically marginalized Black and Brown communities. Porter is a powerhouse for social justice, and that brave enthusiasm to do right by students and families helps her build relationships and trust with staff, families and students. Under her leadership, no matter the position, students thrive.
Porter loves kids. She has used her sense of ethics and love for students to bring about significant increases in achievement. She has the receipts and the data to prove that her leadership works.
As Chancellor, Porter can expect opposition. They will come for her character no matter how many times she shows her impeccably high standard of ethics and morals. They will attack her decisions no matter how many times she advocates for students and families.
They will claim reverse racism. White women will claim to be victims after doing their best to uphold white supremacist systems within predominantly Black and Brown schools. White men will claim they were oppressed after expanding the marginalization of Black souls in school and DOE buildings. They will claim they lost positions or they were replaced or they didn’t get a promotion because they were White. They will sue the city and call in reports to media.
They will question her resume. They will question her abilities, intelligence and capacity despite all her countless degrees, accolades, fellowships and experiences. They will say her data isn’t important.
They will divert the focus to themselves and away from historically marginalized Black and Brown communities and students. They will stoop low and criticize her choice of clothes or shoes, somehow equating fashion with education. They will be in every bit of her personal business and not that of the NYC governing system.
The role of Chancellor can’t be easy—there’s no impressing everyone. Our eyes in Westchester should be on NYC, focused on how the first Black woman to serve as Chancellor is received, treated and portrayed. Even in a city that claims to be progressive and liberal, there are many who would not want a Black woman to serve in such a prestigious seat and they will predictably try to derail her vision for more equitable schools. Porter needs our support, just as pillars of the Black community have needed support before her.
This moment is not about one woman alone, but about our collective movement as Black people towards more equitable educational opportunities. Porter’s story is our history.
Celeste Coleman is a resident of New Rochelle and a staff writer for the Westchester County Press. She also serves as Advance Lead for Equity and Excellence in the Bronx Borough Central Office of the NYCDOE.