Committee to Find New Superintendent for City’s Schools

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, and Boston School Committee Chair Michael O’Neill announced the organization of a Search Committee to begin the national search for a new permanent Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools (BPS) on Feb. 6. This is the first time in almost 10 months that an official effort has been made to find a replacement for current Interim Superintendent John McDonough, yet the committee will be operating under a strict deadline, as it hopes to have a new superintendent in place by September.

The delayed search stems from Boston’s election of a new mayor last year. Since the superintendent joins the mayor’s cabinet, few potential candidates were willing to look seriously into the position until the mayoral election concluded. Additionally, the mayor has significant influence over whom the search committee appoints to the chief role, for that very reason. Prospective administrators had another reason to bide their time, however. According to Massachusetts’ Open Meeting Law, the candidates’ names must be made public. A person still supervising another district risks damaging a relationship with his current employer if openly applying for the Boston position, and his career may grow more difficult should he not secure the job.

“If that scares them away, so be it,” O’Neill said of the law, which has posed an issue in the past. Indeed, O’Neill’s lack of serious concern is likely rooted in the knowledge that Boston’s public school system already has a strong foundation.

“BPS is nationally regarded as one of the best urban school systems in the nation,” O’Neill said. In addition, the area has one of the largest groups of universities and non-profit organizations ready to offer their aid to the public school system.

“The selection of a permanent school superintendent will be our community’s most important decision,” Walsh said in a press release. “We are glad to have the space to make the right choice, given that the District is in great hands with Interim Superintendent John McDonough. This Search Committee represents every facet of education, from elementary school to college, from parents to teachers to administrators. With their broad knowledge base and vast experience, I know they will work diligently to search every corner of the U.S. to help the Boston School Committee make the best possible choice for our students.”

Keeping Boston’s potent academic reputation in mind, it seems that the Search Committee has the opportunity to pursue high-end goals beyond just those for an equitable, quality education. One of the Committee’s notable goals is to eliminate the achievement gaps between students.

The issues faced are not unique to any particular grade year, however, as the Boston school system spans from elementary schools to the collegiate level. To ensure it has represented all members and diversities of the Boston community equally, the 12-person search committee includes members selected from all backgrounds, including former school administrators, philanthropists, businesspeople, parents, and teachers.

Andrew Vega, a member of the committee, has a record as an active schoolteacher that stands out. An eighth-grade literature teacher at Orchards Gardens K-8, Vega was a College Board AP fellow in 2009 and a Teach Plus Teaching Policy fellow in 2011. Today, he holds a position as an American Achieves teacher fellow. He has served as an advisor on teaching for a number of national organizations and for policy-makers of all levels, including President Barack Obama’s top education advisors.

The leaders of the committee are Hardin Coleman and Robert Gallery. Coleman holds his Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Stanford and currently serves as the dean of the School of Education at Boston University. Gallery is the president of Bank of America Massachusetts and received his M.B.A. from Northwestern University.

In its effort to hire a superintendent by September, the committee must recommend a firm for a national search, host community meetings for public input, narrow the candidate list presented by the firm, and propose three finalists for an extensive interviewing process, which will be completed in part by Walsh himself.