School & District Management

Boston Relieved to Snag Leader for Schools

By Catherine Gewertz — July 17, 2007 1 min read
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Boston is welcoming a new schools superintendent, ending an unusually thorny, 18-month search.

Word was out about Carol R. Johnson even before the superintendent-search committee announced its unanimous choice last month. By June 27, when the school board confirmed her, she’d already had a week’s worth of meetings with educators and activists around town.


Now serving as the superintendent of the 119,000-student Memphis, Tenn., district, Ms. Johnson is expected to officially begin work in Boston in late August.

“We’re all very happy a selection has been made,” said City Council President Maureen E. Feeney, who, along with other council members, lunched with the 59-year-old superintendent in late June. “We were very touched by her level of passion.”

Ms. Johnson, who also led the Minneapolis schools for six years, said her priorities will reflect those she’s picked up in community chats: closing achievement gaps and improving poorer-performing schools.

The district’s hope to have a superintendent in place when Thomas W. Payzant retired in June 2006 was dashed as top candidates withdrew, and one who accepted the job backed out. (“Rivera Bows Out; Boston to Open New Hunt,” Jan. 31, 2007.)

Ms. Johnson’s reception in the 57,000-student district appeared to go smoothly. The Boston Globe praised her willingness to state her support for charter schools, and noted her “strong reputation as an attentive listener with a pleasing manner.”

Activists who had insisted the community should meet and question finalists also raised little objection.

William H. Guenther, the president of the Boston-based research group Mass Insight Education, who has advocated affording privacy to candidates involved in superintendent searches, said the results speak for themselves.

“We got the right leader in the end,” he said. “A year from now, if she’s providing the kind of leadership we expect, people aren’t going to remember much about the selection process.”

A version of this article appeared in the July 18, 2007 edition of Education Week


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