New DOE Chancellor Cleans House, Replacing Two District Superintendents

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza dismissed two Bronx district superintendents in the first week of classes, including District 12’s Superintendent Rafaela Espinal-Pacheco.

The newly appointed school chief removed the four-year veteran superintendent from her position five days before classes began on September 6. An administrator in District 12 said Espinal-Pacheco was replaced on Tuesday with interim Superintendent Jacqueline Rosado.

Attempts to reach Espinal-Pacheco by phone were unsuccessful and her district email account was unreachable.

In addition, the chancellor removed Superintendent Karen Ames from neighboring District 8 serving the Hunt’s Point-Throgg’s Neck neighborhoods in the Bronx. The official Department of Education statement said that the  superintendents are “no longer with the D.O.E.” A spokesperson did not say what will happen to the ousted superintendents, nor why the districts would be better served under new leadership.

“A chancellor who really doesn’t understand New York might just simply get rid of the two superintendents from the lowest performing districts,” said Columbia’s Teachers College Professor Eric Nadelstern, “without understanding that those have been the lowest performing districts for decades.” Nadelstern served as deputy chancellor for the education department and was former Deputy Superintendent of the Bronx, a role in which he oversaw every district in the borough.

The removals came as a surprise for many parents in the district, but not the president of District 12’s Community Education Council.

“Parents knew she was a piece of work. She swept things under the rug,” said Ilka Rios, who has held the position as head of the district-wide parent office for nine years. “She was great with kids, but she never really wanted to talk to parents and would push our concerns to the side. There was no open door policy. ”

Some parents said that under Espinal-Pacheco’s leadership the staff turnover caused communication barriers for parents and inconsistency for students. “District 12 is faced with many challenges,” Rios said, “such as homelessness, parents that are English language learners and illegal immigrants. She used that information to treat parents as second- class citizens with no formal education or understanding of how to educate their children.”

The former superintendent held the post for four years and garnered a negative reputation for her erratic attitude and hiring practices, according Rios. Under her watch, many schools closed and a long list of teachers and administrators were fired.

Rios said over the weekend former Superintendent Espinal-Pacheco came back to the P.S. X811 school at 1434 Longfellow Ave. that houses District 12’s offices and ripped down student work on the classroom walls. She said she was satisfied with Carranza’s action to remove Espinal-Pacheco and hopes the district will get a fresh start.

Interim superintendent Rosado will oversee the district’s 22,000 students and 56 schools.

“Jacqueline Rosado is an effective and strong leader who’s focused on achieving equity and excellence for all our students,” said D.O.E. spokesperson Doug Cohen, “We look forward to her work with the students, schools, and communities in District 12.”

As of Friday, Sept. 7,  Espinal-Pacheco was maintaining the Twitter handle @SuptEspinal, but has protected her account from public view.

Screenshot of former Superintendent Rafaela Espinal-Pacheco’s Twitter account, taken on 09/07/2018 at 4.06.11 PM. Credit: Tristan Cimini