From the Mailbag: Who is Carranza?

A few days ago I started getting messages from the media and community folks in Texas requesting background on Richard Carranza, current (former?) Superintendent of Schools of San Francisco Unified. He recently posted this message on his Facebook page.

dc30aa26_oMy dear family and friends – Today I was honored to be named the lone finalist for the Houston Independent School District Superintendent position. I am both excited and thrilled with this new opportunity to lead, but also very grateful and emotional at the thought of leaving the many incredible colleagues and friends that I have had the opportunity to meet and work with in San Francisco. The state of SFUSD is strong and I am proud to have been part of the team to make it so. To my Houston colleagues and future friends – I’ve got my boots, I’ve got my guitar, and I’m ready to roll up my sleeves. Thank you all for your unwavering support.

As I have discussed previously, I began my career working for the Houston Independent School District working in the Research and Accountability Department. Combined with 8 years as a tenure-track faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin, I have developed many friendships and professional relationships in the city that I treasure (See also the post What should we name the school?). I have also blogged about education policy in Texas since 2012. One of the readers of Cloaking Inequity, a parent in Houston, sent a letter today asking about Carranza. I have redacted her name.

Dr. Vasquez-Heilig,

My name is _________ and I am a parent in the Houston ISD. I am a big fan of your work and appreciate all you do as a voice for equity. I was really disappointed to miss hearing you speak at the last two times in Texas (in Austin and in Houston last week).

I don’t know if you heard, but yesterday it was announced that the HISD board has chosen Richard Carranza as the sole finalist for our open superintendent position. I know you are not in San Francisco, but I was wondering if you have an opinion of Dr. Carranza or any information on him? The little I read seems mixed. Also, I was wondering if there are any parent or advocacy groups in San Francisco that have had experience with him that you know of that I could reach out to as well?

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. I really appreciate it.


What do I already know? Carranza has made an appearance here on the blog in the posts .@TeachForAmerica Ground Offensive Stalling Spectacularly in California and Will San Francisco Cancel TFA?: @TeachForAmerica Alum letter to Board details threats, depression, and debt Carranza appears to be a BIG supporter of Teach For America. Teach For America has said that Carranza has given them a “strong recommendation.” In Houston, he will have LOTS of TFA. Although this former Houston principal took issue with their readiness in our first Truth For America podcast.

However, I don’t personally know Carranza, so today I want to reach out to the readers of Cloaking Inequity and crowd source your impressions of Carranza’s leadership in San Francisco and elsewhere. What can Houston expect since he is “the lone finalist for the Houston Independent School District Superintendent position.” You can either leave your thoughts in the comments here at Cloaking Inequity or email them to me directly at and I will forward them to community folks in Houston.

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One comment

  • I did some research, asking SF folks when Carranza was shortlisted in Los Angeles:

    1. He’s a TFA ideologue, who hires the young bloods who speak reform, are moldable and energetic. He hired a TFAer as the top Human Resources officer in San Francisco Unified. He forced a TFA contract onto the district in a contentious battle. Recently, that contract was dropped, but it’s been reported that principals are independently hiring TFAers. Some think with Carranza’s wink and nod.

    2. In a very high profile new school that was supposed to bring together the extreme racial and socio-economic diversity of SF, he hired a young TFAer, Demetrius Hobson, from Chicago (via Harvard) as principal of the highest profile school in SF, Willie Brown MS, without board approval. They were not happy. Then the principal quit and Carranza begged him to come back–again without board approval. This time the board was furious. Hobson quit again 4 weeks after the school opened unable to handle the job. A veteran principal was brought in to stabilize things. There is news coverage of this.

    3. He enraged middle class parents by cutting advanced classes in the name of equity rather than doing more to provide access for those typically underserved. The County Board of Supervisors wrote a letter to the school board supporting the hundreds of parents who had protested the changes. Carranza persisted. In discussions about families leaving the district, he said “we have to be ok with people who are going to leave the system.”

    4. He refused to back–or even publicly discuss–a ballot measure that would have brought $20 million into the district in a popular soda tax (no philanthropic strings attached). Nearby Berkeley passed the tax with over 70% of the vote, so it clearly would not have been an uphill battle.

    5. In San Francisco, he has strong ties to a philanthropic group that makes policy decisions with no public meetings. Partners in School Innovation is a noneducator, closed door group, even creating a slick visioning brochure when people say the district was already on the right track. This includes the usual “superintendent’s zone schools” for lowest achieving

    6. SF teachers and parents said that he uses the language of the civil rights movement to silence critics.

    7. Cut paraprofessionals and counselors despite a budget surplus. Parents, paraprofessionals and teachers protested:

    8. Check to see if he’s bringing his #2 guy, Guadalupe Guerrero, with him.

    9. There are reports of serious fiscal-management issues at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts.


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