HISD Names Sole Finalist for New Superintendent

Trustees of the Houston ISD, who have been at loggerheads during many votes so far this year, were able to reach unanimous accord Tuesday in an early-morning meeting and name Richard A. Carranza, a public schools superintendent from San Francisco, as the sole finalist to replace former Houston ISD superintendent Terry Grier.

"This is an exciting and historic day for the Houston Independent School District," Board President Manuel Rodriguez said in the press conference that followed the board's decision to go with another out-of-towner to head the district. Trustee Mike Lunceford Skyped in his vote to make it 9-0 in the motion to name Carranza, which was presented by Trustee Jolanda Jones.

Commenting on the community input collected by HISD, Rodriguez said, "You told us that Houston's next school leader should foster a collaborative, positive, professional climate of mutual trust and respect among all stakeholders." 

"We needed someone to establish a culture of  high expectations for all students and staff.  This position generated a great number of applications from Texas and throughout the nation. Richard Carranza stood out in this field of strong candidates. He fits Houston. Mr. Carranza is the right leader at the right time."

Board vice president Wanda Adams was next and thanked Interim Superintendent Ken Huewitt for his service. Huewitt had been one of the finalists for the superintendent's job and several trustees had been strong supporters initially of his getting the job permanently.

Each trustee then took a turn at the mike, pointing to Carranza's love of the arts (mariachi music), his bilingualism (Spanish and English) and his ability to work with diverse student populations.  Trustee Diana Davila addressed the room in Spanish, joining other trustees in thanking the community for its patience during the long superintendent search.  All stressed that they had reached consensus and by naming Carranza the sole finalist (which is usual in these searches), they were putting the needs of the children first. 

There will be a 21-day waiting period before trustees can formally vote on Carranza, during which members of the public can comment on the designee. Which means if approved, Carranza will take the helm just days before the start of the 2016-17 school year.

From his résumé, Carranza looks like a good fit for the district and one who will carry on some of Grier's legacy. According to the San Francisco Unified District website, Carranza is recognized for his efforts to emphasize bilingual education and is a proven money raiser from private donors. Grier greatly expanded the emphasis on foreign languages during his 2009 to 2016 tenure, and he was able to persuade a lot of individuals and agencies to hand over cash for new initiatives. Grier was also successful in passing a major bond issue.

Named to the superintendency of the San Francisco Unified School District in 2012, Carranza was up for consideration for the top job in the Los Angeles school district but withdrew his name from consideration in January. At that time, he said he was really happy in the work he was doing in San Francisco.

Word of his candidacy first was reported Tuesday by the Houston Chronicle's Ericka Mellon and the San Francisco Chronicle, which said the San Francisco school board was aware Carranza might be jumping to Houston and had already started on its own superintendent search.

A quick review of other media reports about Carranza shows that in February of this year, he proposed handing out free condoms to middle-schoolers, expanding an already established school district program that allowed schools to hand them out to high-schoolers. In a further expansion of the program, Carranza also proposed removing their parents' ability to opt their children out of the program. He might have a tougher time getting something like that accepted here.

Before coming to San Francisco, Carranza was a regional superintendent and principal in Las Vegas, and a high school principal in Tucson. Prior to that, he taught bilingual social studies and music. A graduate of the University of Arizona with a bachelor's degree in Secondary Education, he went on to earn a master's in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University.

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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing