Meisha Ross Porter
CNN  — 

Richard Carranza, chancellor of New York City’s public schools system, will step down in March, he announced at a news conference Friday.

Carranza will be succeeded by Meisha Ross Porter, a former teacher and school principal in the Bronx. Porter will be the first African American woman to serve as education chancellor in the city’s history.

Visibly emotional, Carranza said he had lost 11 family members and friends to the coronavirus, adding that he needed “time to grieve.”

Richard Carranza

“I feel that I can take that time now, because of the place that we are in, and the work we have done together,” Carranza said.

At the news conference, Carranza touted successes over the past three years, including rising graduation rates in city schools, schooling during the pandemic, distribution of a half a million devices for remote learning, and making “progress in dismantling structures and policies that are products of decades of entrenched racism.”

During his tenure, Carranza has at times been at odds with Mayor Bill de Blasio, particularly over the issue of desegregating New York City’s schools.

He was criticized for reopening New York City’s schools after they had been shut down after the city’s seven-day positivity rate of new Covid-19 cases exceeded a three percent threshold. Middle schools reopened for some in-person learning on Thursday, while elementary schools have been open since December. High Schools have still not returned to in-person learning.

The class of 2020 had a higher graduation rate than that of 2019, with a rate of 84.8 compared to 83.4. However, the New York State Education Department attributes part of that increase to the cancellation of the June and August 2020 Regents Exams, which are required to graduate.

New York City’s public schools also saw a steep decrease in enrollment for this school year, with 43,000 fewer students than the previous school year, which dropped overall enrollment below one million students for the first time in 15 years. The district said it attributes a large part of the loss to the pandemic.

Responding to a reporter when asked whether his sudden departure could be attributed to disagreements with the mayor, Carranza said “I’m leaving because I need to take care of me.”

“This city, this school system, deserves a chancellor who a hundred percent is taking up the helm and leading the charge to bringing everybody back in September,” he added.

Porter will assume a massive task – working to fully reopen the nation’s largest public school system for the 2021-2022 school year.

“I want to promise to all of the NYC families, students, educators that I will see you in the same way that folks have seen me,” Porter said. “This moment isn’t about me, it’s about the story of us, and what we’re going to do together to move this system forward.”

“I know with certainty it is my duty and responsibility that I have carried with me my whole life, to lean forward and lean in and see every student and create opportunities for them in every moment that I possibly can.”