For someone who majored in plumbing at the Queens Vocational and Technical High school, Meisha Ross Porter has carved a niche for herself in the education sector in New York. She is set to take the reins from the New York City Schools Chancellor, Richard Carranza, who resigned abruptly last Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced.
This makes Porter the first Black woman to lead the largest school system in the United States. Her term officially begins on March 15. She might spend only 10 months on the job because the mayor’s term of office is coming to an end and a new mayor may bring in a new Chancellor.
The 47-year-old comes from a family of educators. She was raised by a single mother who later returned to finish her degree to become an educator. Growing up with little to nothing to go by at times, Porter said her upbringing showed her the “power of public education and the difference one teacher can make.”
The Queens native started as an anti-drug organizer for teens in Bronx’s Highbridge neighborhood when an encounter with Richard Kahan, founder of Urban Assembly, a non-profit that has created 23 public schools, set the ball rolling for her career in education.
She was initially enlisted by Kahan to help plan Urban Assembly’s first school, meanwhile, she was training to be a teacher. So, after the school was set up, Porter got hired for her first teaching job in the school where she later rose through the ranks to be principal.
Porter has her work cut out for her because the New York school system is one that is struggling amid the pandemic. With her 20 years’ experience in the sector, she hopes to pull the system out of its emotional and educational setbacks.
She has a reputation for bringing under one umbrella, diverse and often competing interests. As the current executive superintendent of the Bronx overseeing the borough’s 361 schools, Porter will in her new role be leading a school system that has more than 1 million students and 1,800 schools.
“As a lifelong New Yorker, a product of our City’s public schools, and a career educator, it is the honor of my lifetime to serve as Chancellor,” Porter said in a statement.
“Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza have laid an incredible foundation for me, and I am ready to hit the ground running and lead New York City schools to a full recovery,” Porter said.
Per a press release, her term of office as an executive superintendent since she took office has recorded many successes. The graduation rates in the borough have shot up by 5.7% compared to the citywide rise of 2.8%.
“Today is a historic day for New York City schools. Meisha Porter is a homegrown New Yorker who knows what it takes to give every kid the high-quality public-school education they deserve,” de Blasio said in a press release.
“Together, we are going to build on the work that Richard Carranza has led in guiding the nation’s largest school system through the COVID-19 pandemic, promoting social and emotional learning, and making unprecedented gains for equity in our schools.”
Porter’s relationship with principals and parents in her borough has been exceptional over the years. According to U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a former principal who worked with Porter, she is a visionary leader with a deep love for the children she oversees, their families, and communities.
Porter promises to prioritize the reopening of in-person high schools that have been shut down since November while elementary and middle schools have reopened, The City reports.