Boston Public Schools Picks New Superintendent

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Cheers erupted across the School Committee chambers Wednesday night as the seven-person panel chose Brenda Cassellius as the next superintendent of Boston Public Schools, based on her work with achievement gaps and equity, her desire to work with families and teachers, and her experience working with the state.

“We need to move beyond the bitter feelings in our district,” said member Michael O’Neill. “I think Dr. Cassellius is the superintendent we need now in Boston.”

Cassellius was the fan favorite, with many believing she would be best to incorporate the needs of students and families in the district.

“We are really pleased with the selection. We hope it indicates a new willingness by the School Committee and the mayor to listen to the community,” said Lisa Green, a member of the Boston Coalition for Education Equity.

Cassellius was the Minnesota Commissioner of Education from 2011 to this year, previously working as a paraprofessional, teacher and superintendent in districts in Minnesota and Tennessee. Her accomplishments include new funding for schools, enactment of all-day kindergarten, state-funded preschool, and high graduation rates.

“I am humbled and honored to join the students, parents, educators and school leaders who are the heart of Boston Public Schools,” Cassellius said in a statement. “The deep commitment from so many partners and community stakeholders I’ve met has been evident throughout this process. I appreciate the rich diversity of Boston and look forward to getting to know and working alongside the entire community on behalf of our students and schools.

“There is no more worthy work than creating an equitable and excellent education for every child in every neighborhood and every school in Boston. I can’t wait to get to work and make Boston home,” she said.

Boston Teachers Union president Jessica Tang voiced encouragement for the selection.

“It’s wonderful and we hope she is a step towards rebuilding trust with the stakeholders in our community who we hope felt heard,” Tang said. Tang identified contract negotiations and implementing the necessary measures for better schools by addressing student and staff support as key initiatives for the new superintendent.

Cassellius said she won’t come to Boston with a set plan, instead opting to listen to parents, teachers and administrators to establish what needs to be done.

Also in the running for the position were Cathedral High school headmaster Oscar Santos and Miami-Dade Chief Academic Officer Marie Izquierdo. Cassellius received 5 votes and Izquierdo received 2 votes.

Last week each participated in daylong interview panels, which many in the community claimed weren’t transparent and were flawed.

“The search committee wasn’t representative, the final public phase was rushed, and the School Committee’s own job description of five years’ experience as a school superintendent was ignored,” the Boston Coalition for Education Equity wrote in a statement. “If nothing else, this process helped to solidify the lack of confidence many of us have in the School Committee structure.”

They also were unsatisfied with the prospective candidates only being presented to the public when the Superintendent Search Committee narrowed the pool from 150 to just three. But since the interviews, the education community supported Cassellius, impressed with her openness for community engagement, her negative stance on standardized testing and her state education experience.

“There was an overwhelming response from different groups across the city to support her that I have never seen in my five years here,” said member Jeri Robinson. “We need healing, trust and a parent, teacher and community voice and we need to work together.”

Cassellius replaces former Superintendent Tommy Chang, who departed last year after only three years with the district. Since June, the district appointed Laura Perille as the interim superintendent, but she declined to make the position permanent at the start of the superintendent search.

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