The Boston school board chose its new superintendent in a close vote Wednesday night.
Mary Skipper was chosen as the new superintendent of Boston Public Schools in a 4-3 vote. Boston School Committee Chairman Jeri Robinson cast the fourth vote for Skipper, breaking the 3-3 tie between Skipper and Tommy Welch.
“I am humbled and honored to have been chosen to lead the district that has raised me as an educator and solidified my passion for making a difference in the lives of students,” Skipper said in a statement after the vote. . “This is a pivotal time in the history of Boston and BPS, and nothing less than the future of our students and our city hangs in the balance. I look forward to working with our families, our educators, our community leaders and our students to ensure that every BPS student has the opportunity to receive an excellent education that prepares them for success in school and in life.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said she was thrilled to welcome Skipper as the “experienced leader and dedicated partner Boston needs for our young people and our families.” Wu will hold a press conference Thursday morning with Skipper.
“At this time of challenge and opportunity, Mary is uniquely prepared to advance the systemic reforms and immediate results our students deserve,” added Wu, a longtime district administrator — and successful superintendent. in the region, will energize our work. »
Robinson said Wednesday’s vote by the school committee marked “a huge step forward for the district.”
“On behalf of the school board, congratulations to Mary Skipper on becoming Boston’s next superintendent,” Robinson added. “Under his leadership, we will continue to prioritize the needs of our students so they can receive the quality support and education necessary to excel in the classroom.”
Committee members Stephen Alkins, Brandon Cardet-Hernandez and Lorena Lopera voted for Welch. Committee vice-chairman Mike O’Neill and committee members Rafaela Polanco and Quoc Tran backed Skipper — with committee chairman Robinson’s deciding vote. Student representative Xyra Mercer did not make an endorsement for the superintendent.
The school committee took the vote in a virtual meeting on Wednesday, and it will be immediately followed by contract negotiations with Skipper in executive session. Skipper must formally accept an offer for the position in order to negotiate his contract, including salary, benefits and his start date.
The Boston school committee will vote on two finalists for superintendent during a virtual meeting on Wednesday evening. Whoever gets the job will go into it knowing that the district faces a number of pressing challenges.
Skipper was one of two people considered finalists for Boston Public Schools superintendent: Skipper, the Somerville Public Schools superintendent, and Welch, who oversees 15 BPS schools as Region 1 superintendent.
Wu and Robinson thanked Welch after Skipper’s vote on Wednesday night, underscoring his passion and commitment to the district.
“I am grateful to Dr. Tommy Welch for his passion as an educator and administrator, his connection to communities and his commitment to our schools,” added Wu. “We have a lot of work to do together in all of our communities and all areas of the city, and I look forward to fulfilling the promise and possibility for our children.”
Robinson added, “I would also like to thank Dr. Tommy Welch for his continued commitment to BPS, our students and our city.”
Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang released a statement late Wednesday, saying BTU looks forward to partnering with Skipper “to create the schools our students deserve.”
“Superintendent Skipper has the experience, knowledge and qualities that will be essential to meet the pressing needs facing our school district,” Tang said.
Two candidates are scheduled to interview for the position, which is open because the state and city are apparently still at odds over future Boston public schools.
Tang also said the teachers’ union looks forward to continuing its partnership with Welch, thanking him for his leadership and commitment and noting that the district is fortunate to have his expertise and experience.
Both Skipper and Welch were candidates for the position knowing that the district faces a number of pressing challenges, and each candidate has years of experience in the district, which could have helped either of them solve the endemic problems that the State has identified at BPS.
Dozens of members of the public spoke out on the decision ahead of Wednesday night’s vote as the beleaguered district narrowly escaped a state takeover.
Boston Public Schools have recently come under fire for what DESE Commissioner Jeffrey Riley called underperformance as well as what the NAACP described as a lack of representation in the search for a new superintendent.
In a report released last month, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) said Boston public schools were struggling to function at a basic level and were not addressing “systemic barriers to equitable education. The district on Tuesday reached an agreement with state officials to follow a plan to improve the system, narrowly avoiding a state takeover in what is called receivership.
A last-minute deal averts a state takeover of Boston’s public schools — but that hasn’t stopped teachers from rallying.
Both Skipper and Welch were interviewed publicly for hours last week by the search committee, where they explained how they would approach the issues.
“A big goal here would be to re-engage and restructure in ways that allow our teams to be more effective for our students and their outcomes,” Skipper said.
“Addressing the challenges of pandemics and systemic racism is not easy work, but I am fortunate to make a difference every day in schools with dedicated colleagues,” Welch said.
After launching the search process in March, the BPS search committee narrowed the field of 34 candidates to two for superintendent through a series of private interviews. The finalists each made their case to students, parents, teachers and community leaders during interviews last week.
“So why BPS? BPS raised me,” Skipper said. “That’s where I learned to be a teacher and how I learned to be a caring leader. That’s where I learned to be a manager. I had so many great opportunities to grow in the district because people were willing to take risks on me and invest in me.
Skipper has seven years as Somerville superintendent and a long Boston career, which includes launching TechBoston Academy, under his belt. Meanwhile, Dr. Welch is already in the BPS system, supervising 7,000 students at 15 schools in Charlestown, East Boston and North End.
“I believe I’m the leader we need,” Welch said. “Boston is our home. BPS is our home, where my wife and I have dedicated our careers and entrusted our children. It’s the only place I would do the job.”
Tanisha Sullivan, the leader of NAACP Boston, has publicly expressed concerns that neither finalist is black or Latino, which does not reflect the majority of students at Boston Public School. Sullivan is running for Secretary of State against Bill Galvin.
Brenda Cassellius leaves the position on June 30 and signed at the meeting on Wednesday evening.
Cassellius started as Boston school superintendent in the summer of 2019 after serving as Minnesota’s education commissioner, and led the district during the pandemic. She said she arrived at work “Minnesota Nice” and left “Boston Strong”.
“Getting through adversity makes us stronger, but more importantly, it builds our character and guides our resolve,” she said, before receiving warm wishes from school committee members.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and Cassellius called the superintendent’s decision to step down mutual and thanked her for “her steadfast leadership, grace and courage.”
The Boston Teachers Union thanked Cassellius for his contributions to district schools “during an incredibly trying and unprecedented time.”
“Dr. Cassellius has made significant contributions to the district, particularly on issues of equity and social-emotional well-being, and through his efforts to begin to address decades of deferred facility maintenance,” Tang said. “We wish him the best in his future endeavours.”
Assistant Superintendent of Academics Drew Echelson served as superintendent before Cassellius’s replacement took over.
Skipper and Echelson will work closely together during the leadership transition, as Echelson leads the district’s ongoing initiatives – including the implementation of the Systemic Improvement Plan negotiated with DESE – until Skipper begins his term. .
“I am deeply committed to working closely with Ms. Skipper to ensure a smooth transition,” Dr. Echelson said in a statement late Wednesday. “Mary has always been a very empathetic listener who leads with determination, humility and an unwavering faith in our children. I look forward to strengthening our work and leveraging much-needed reinforcements to accelerate BPS reforms, particularly as they relate to is about racial equity, special education, native language access, and improved transportation systems.”
The Boston Teachers Union president congratulated Echelson on his appointment as acting superintendent and said she looked forward to working with him to help ensure a smooth and successful transition.
Tang also said that with a new superintendent appointed and a systemic improvement plan in place, a key next step is for the district to accept a contract with frontline educators to advance “many local solutions advocated for over the years. long by students, families and educators.”
“Working with the new leadership of BPS, our educators will continue to bring their enthusiasm, creativity and passion for teaching students as well as their commitment to equity and inclusion to the table as we welcome the Superintendent Skipper back to Boston Public Schools and work together to build the schools our students — and our communities — deserve,” she added.
“We’re already behind 8-ball when it comes to Boston students and families getting what they need. So I hope and trust that the Superintendent will indeed be operational,” she said.
Francis Pina, a math teacher at BPS, expects the new leadership to address issues around the lack of quality education for English language learners and underserved students, saying, “If we try to keep it student-centered and family-centered and do the best we can for those key stakeholders, so we all have to support a superintendent who’s really good at building those relationships and not just listening of these stakeholders, but who keeps the promises they will make.