HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Richard A. Carranza assumed leadership of Texas' largest school system on Thursday with a unanimous vote by the Houston ISD Board of Education to name him superintendent.
Carranza, 49, most recently served as superintendent of the 58,000-student San Francisco Unified School District. Carranza is a fluent Spanish-speaker and lifelong educator. He has served as a bilingual classroom teacher, a campus principal, and a senior-level administrator in Las Vegas and Tucson.
On the night of his induction, students played live mariachi. At one point, Carranza joined the band in full voice. He belted a tune with vibrant joy. Several audience members joined.
It's a sound dear to Carranza's heart; a 1997 article from the Tuscan Citizen profiles a 30-year old Carranza as founder of Pueblo High School;s mariachi club. He told FOX 26 that club is still going strong, and his years in the classroom taught him a great deal about leadership.
"I know what it's like to do with lesson plan and had it go south the first two minutes you walk into the classroom, said Carranza, who spent ten years in the classroom before taking administrative roles. " School district work is very much like that lesson; you have to adapt, you have to be prepared, but you have to anticipate."
The Board of Education conducted a national search for candidates matching a leadership profile developed with input from more than 3,200 parents, teachers, taxpayers, and other Houston community members.
"Mr. Carranza stood out in a field of excellent candidates," said HISD Board President Manuel Rodríguez Jr. "His personal journey, including his upbringing as the child of hard-working immigrant parents and his strong record of collaborative leadership, make Mr. Carranza the right person to guide Houston schools into a promising future."
Carranza said he was drawn to HISD because of the city's reputation for capitalizing on its diversity to build a dynamic and thriving community.
"Houston is a model urban school district," Carranza said. "While others are closing schools because of declining enrollment, HISD is growing and opening new schools. This is because the community here still believes in public education. Houston supports its children, and that is so important, because we cannot do this work alone."
Carranza said his first order of business in HISD will be to listen to all stakeholders while he visits schools and communities across the city.
"He is an open book," said Monique Garcia, Carranza's fiance. "He is the type of person you can go up to when you see him in a store, or when you see him at dinner, and he will stop what he's doing. You are the most important person in the room to him."
"I believe in teamwork," Carranza said. "We must set a common, shared vision for our children and then all pull together in the same direction."
Serving 215,000 students in 287 schools, HISD is the nation's seventh-largest school district and is the only two-time winner of the Broad Prize for Urban Education, which recognizes the country's top-performing urban district.
Carranza's contract, signed Thursday, is for 3 years with a base annual salary of $345,000. The board has the option to extend the contract for additional years. The contract includes an agreement that the board and Carranza will work together on a performance incentive pay component that will take effect during the 2017-2018 school year. Carranza will visit HISD schools on Monday, when students begin the new school year.
Carranza earned a bachelor of arts in secondary education from the University of Arizona and a master of education with distinction in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University. He has completed his doctoral coursework through Northern Arizona University and is currently pursuing a doctorate of education through Nova Southeastern University in Educational Leadership.
He chairs the Board of Directors for the Council of the Great City Schools, serving as a national spokesperson on significant issues facing urban school districts.
Carranza also serves on the Association of Latinos and Administrators Board of Directors, National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, American Association of School Administrators Executive Committee, San Francisco Symphony Board of Governors, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco Board of Trustees, and the K to College Advisory Board.
When addressing the community Thursday, Carranza recalled his first day of school; son of a hair dresser and sheet metal worker, he says he spoke no English. He credits the education system as being the tool that allowed him to become a leader today. Carranza's philosophy toward education is based in helping all students forward.
"When you talk about equity, you're not talking about always bringing students who haven't met the bar up. You're talking about students have already met the bar; how do you push them to keep moving up and give them additional opportunities? I think that's a ripe conversation for us to have in Houston," says Carranza.