Boston Superintendent Finalists Face Public Interviews This Week

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 Updated February 23, 2015, 11:20 am

City residents this week will get the chance to see and hear from the four finalists in the search for a new Boston Public Schools superintendent.

The final step before a new superintendent is selected for Boston’s 57,000-student system is a very public one, and first up Monday is Guadalupe Guerrero, a deputy superintendent in San Francisco who has direct ties to Boston, having previously worked as a teacher and principal at the Dever Elementary School.

‘Each Brought Something Different To The Table’

The superintendent search committee, which held a series of community meetings over the past year, getting input from the members of the public about what they want to see in Boston’s next school leader, had promised to name three finalists.

When the committee took its final vote last Thursday, the number was four.

“Each brought something different to the table,” said Michael O’Neill, chair of the Boston School Committee. “Each has a different background, but we were excited by the fact that any one of these four we felt could meet the criteria that was established in our community process over the past year.”

“We were excited by the fact that any one of these four we felt could meet the criteria that was established in our community process over the past year.”

– Michael O'Neill, chair of the Boston School Committee

Even though women were among those interviewed in the final stages of the process, the final four are all men of color — two are Latino, one is black and one is Asian.

Boston is a diverse school district. English language learners (ELL) account for a large number of students — 44 percent* have a first language other than English.

“As we look at the final four, we have three finalists who were ELL learners in school themselves,” said Hardin Coleman, co-chair of the superintendent search committee. “The fourth is an African-American who’s worked in populations that are largely ELL, Hispanic populations, with great success.”

Coleman says the key challenge facing the next superintendent is closing achievement gaps.

“If you think of the challenges that are facing Boston, in terms of closing the gaps for disadvantaged youth, ELL, [special education] youth, these people all had significant qualifications and are excellent models for the population of the school,” Coleman said.

This week, each of the final four candidates will undergo a day of public interviews with four different panels here in Boston — parents, students, teachers, school leaders and community partners such as City Year and Massachusetts Advocates for Children.

Following Guerrero on Monday will be Tommy Chang, who is currently a superintendent in Los Angeles. The panels will then meet with Richmond Superintendent Dana Bedden on Wednesday, and Pedro Martinez, who works for the Nevada Department of Education, on Thursday.

From left to right: Guadalupe Guerrero, Tommy Chang, Dana Bedden and Pedro Martinez. (Courtesy BPS)

From left to right: Guadalupe Guerrero, Tommy Chang, Dana Bedden and Pedro Martinez. (Courtesy BPS)

Each session will be open to the public and will be streamed online. Each candidate’s application is posted online, and O’Neill says even the online process will include opportunity for public input.

“We will also have an online form that we will encourage people to let us know what your thoughts are,” O’Neill said.

Kim Janey, with Massachusetts Advocates for Children, will be on one of the panels each of the finalists will face over the next four days. She says the selection of the next superintendent is “the most important decision that faces us as a city,” but she’s concerned about public access to the process.

“Because not everyone will have access and will be able to go online and to view the forms,” Janey said. “So how we get information out? How we include the voices of folks who can’t either attend in person or watch online will be very important.”

O’Neill says the School Committee will hold a special meeting on March 3 to vote on a finalist to replace former Superintendent Carol Johnson, who announced her resignation in April 2013.

*Correction: An earlier versionof this story incorrectly stated the percentage of Boston Public School students who have a first language other than English. Forty-four percent of BPS students have a first language other than English.

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