Likely replacement for Carlos Garcia not about to rock the boat

The man who will most likely be the next San Francisco Unified School District superintendent has promised a smooth transition with no surprises if he takes the helm this summer.

“If anyone’s expecting a radically different direction, that’s not going to be the case,” Richard Carranza, currently the district’s deputy superintendent, said in an interview with The S.F. Examiner.

The school board is expected this month to hire Carranza, 45, to replace retiring Superintendent Carlos Garcia, who was with the district for five years. Board members decided to forgo searching for a new leader outside the district in order to save money and avoid a disruptive transition.

“People pretty much know what they’re going to get with me,” said Carranza, who has worked closely with Garcia as his second-in-command since 2009.

Carranza said he would begin his tenure with a public listening tour.

“How are we spending resources?” Carranza said. “Things that are working, we want to make sure we’re supporting within this very limited budget environment. But things that aren’t working … we want to stop doing.”

Among Carranza’s priorities is improving special education programs. SFUSD has been criticized in recent years for not fully including students with disabilities in mainstream classrooms, as well as for the disproportionate numbers of black and Hispanic children who are in special education classes.

“I think there just hasn’t been the attention paid to it that we should have paid to it,” Carranza said.

Carranza said he also expects to grapple with continued state funding shortfalls, which have reduced the district’s budget by $113 million in the past two years.

“We are in the ICU ward,” he said. “We’re keeping things moving and we’re keeping kids learning only because of the heroic actions in classrooms of people doing more with less every single day.”

Carranza, who was on the front line of education as a teacher for nearly a decade, stressed that the financial picture will only improve through “fundamental change in Sacramento,” but he hoped that the district would not have to ask for further concessions from teachers.

While Garcia has worked well with the teachers union despite the tough financial situation, that relationship has grown colder since the district announced in February that it would ignore seniority to avoid layoffs at Superintendent’s Zone schools in the Mission and Bayview neighborhoods. Carranza declined to “armchair quarterback” that issue.

“The union leadership and the district leadership, including the board, have exactly the same desire: to do the best we can for children,” he said.

Carranza said he was also proud of the fact that his two daughters, ages 10 and 15, attend SFUSD schools. He declined to name the schools.

“Every day when I get up and come to work, I truly live by the motto, ‘Is it good enough for my kids?’” he said. “And if it’s not, then we have work to do.”

That personal stake also means that he is committed to San Francisco, he said.

“My intent, if I am selected as the superintendent, is to retire from San Francisco,” he said. “I’m not looking at San Francisco as a stepping stone to anywhere else.”

Resume Highlights

San Francisco Unified School District

  • Deputy Superintendent, 2009-present

Clark County (Nev.) School District

  • Regional Superintendent, 2007-2009. Oversaw a region with 58,000 students.

Principal, Eldorado High School, 2004-2007

Tucson Unified School District

  • Principal, Pueblo Magnet High School, 2002-2004
  • Assistant Principal, 1998-2002
  • Mariachi Music Teacher, 1992-2000
  • Bilingual Social Studies Teacher, 1991-2000
  • Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Nova Southeastern University (in progress)
  • Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Northern Arizona University, 1998-2004 (all but dissertation)
  • M.Ed. in Educational Leadership, Northern Arizona University, 1997
  • B.A. in Secondary Education, University of Arizona, 1991
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