NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — From unequal education at Jewish religious schools, to cafeteria food that students won’t eat – New York City’s new schools chancellor is tackling some hot-button issues facing the nation’s largest education system.
CBS2’s Political Reporter Marcia Kramer spoke with Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza in an exclusive interview Wednesday.
It’s not something you see every day – the New York City schools chancellor, the boss of all bosses of 1.1 million students, laying down a few tracks in a music class. And while Carranza was careful not to strike a sour note, hitting all the right chords in a school system with a vast array of thorny issues may test his ability to tap dance.
Take the issue of yeshivas, Jewish religious schools overseen by the city, some of which critics charge leave students without a basic command of English, math, history or science.
“Those are the skills I think all New Yorkers want their students to have,” Carranza said. “If that’s in fact the case, that’s unacceptable.
“These are the future of New York, so all students should be able to have those skill sets and prepare for a 21st Century future,” he continued.
Those were surprisingly strong words, considering Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina have dragged their feet resolving the issue of secular education, Kramer reported. Three years into an investigation that was supposed to take months, the Department of Education has visited only 15 of the 39 schools it was supposed to probe.
Having been on the job for a week and a half, Carranza said it’s too soon to know what steps he’ll take.
It was the same thing with another issue Kramer brought to his attention – school lunches that kids won’t eat. She showed him pictures of mushroom burgers tossed in the trash at one school lunchroom.
“I think we probably can do more, and I’m really committed to helping us do that,” said Carranza.
Kramer must have given him food for thought, because after their interview, he brought it up with students at Orchard Collegiate Academy on the Lower East Side.
“Tell me about the food,” Carranza said.
“I seriously have not eaten school lunch since probably seventh grade,” student Jam Martinez said.
“I don’t like the school food, to be honest with you,” said Isiah Rodriguez.
The chancellor got the message.
“One of the things I heard loud and clear is, ‘hey, we want to have better food,’” he said.
Carranza’s solution to the food question was to have students come to a Department of Education test kitchen to rate new menu items.
A solution to the yeshiva question may take a little longer, but he said he’s on it.