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Progress made in BPS superintendent search

Search cmte. finalized as process advances

Catherine Mcgloin

The Boston School Committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday Oct. 10 on who will join the hunt for the next superintendent, while education reformers discuss their ideal candidate for the schools leadership position.

A vote this week will determine which of the eight proposed candidates will join the Boston Public Schools Superintendent Search Committee, co-chaired by Alexandra Oliver-Dávila and Dr. J. Keith Motley. The search committee will ultimately decide who will take over from Interim Superintendent Laura Perille, who has been overseeing Boston Public Schools since the abrupt resignation of former superintendent Tommy Chang at the start of the summer.

Education reformers and advocates have a few ideas about whom the search committee should be looking for and how they should operate.

“I would like to see a candidate who is a strong educational leader with experience in teaching and learning,” said Barbara Fields, a member of the Black Educators Alliance of Massachusetts.

Perille, former president and chief executive of the Boston education nonprofit EdVestors, has been criticized for her lack of direct classroom experience, making this an important factor in the search for the next superintendent.

“While it’s important to have a manager, we are a school system, so we need someone with an academic background who can lead our school district into academic excellence,” Fields added.

Representation

Besides professional background, personal traits will also play a role in reformers accepting the new recruit.

“We would like to see a candidate who represents the majority of students in BPS,” said Ruby Reyes, director of the Boston Education Justice Alliance. Of the 56,000 current BPS students, more than 80 percent are black, Latino or Asian, yet 60 percent of staff are white.

Fields said she would like to see “a candidate who is skilled with issues of race and equity because it’s still an impediment to our children’s learning,” but she told the Banner that a superintendent who is a “teacher, learner and advocate,” regardless of race, is just as important. She said the search committee should focus on finding “a candidate who will eliminate the achievement and opportunity gap” that exists between African American and Latino students and their white classmates.

According to a recent report released by the Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership, only 27 percent of black students and 31 percent of Latino students in the state reached the grade required for college readiness in the 2017 SAT exam, compared with 65 percent of white and 71 percent of Asian students. Findings also showed that black and Latino students in Massachusetts are three times more likely to be taught by a teacher without specific subject expertise, and only 1 in 3 black and Latino fourth-graders meet reading proficiency requirements.

Problem-solving

Representation is a top priority for educational reformers like Reyes, who wants the search committee “to think about the really important, multi-dimensional factors that make up the lives of children in Boston Public Schools.” These include the fact that 15 percent of children in Massachusetts under the age of 15 grow up below the federal poverty line, while almost 40 percent of children in north Dorchester and 46 percent in Roxbury live in poverty, according to a Boston Public Health Commission report released in 2013.

“We need a superintendent who will analyze all of the issues and not just put stop gaps in place,” said Reyes, “someone who puts out the fires and addresses the needs of children and their families.”