Boston Public Schools ramps up search for new superintendent

Martin Desmarais | 3/12/2014, 10:36 a.m.

Kim Janey, senior project director at Massachusetts Advocates for Children, emphasized the importance of experience with race disparities in a new superintendent.

“We need a leader who has had experience in eliminating racial and programmatic achievement gaps and in increasing equitable access to opportunities that lead to high academic achievement,” Janey said.

Search committee co-chair Coleman agrees with Jackson that any new superintendent needs to be very adept at working collaboratively with parents, teachers, students and the community to ensure that the city’s students have the opportunity to succeed.

He also tabbed the achievement gap as an issue of critical importance to Boston Public Schools and for the new superintendent.

“We are looking for a proven leader who has an evidenced-based or data-driven approach to system improvement that first eliminates the achievement gap within the district and then the gap between the district and the Commonwealth,” Coleman said. “Many believe that such a leader must have a high level of multicultural competence, be able to work effectively with a variety of partners — business, higher education and health care — and manage the operations of the district efficiently and effectively.”

In the search process, BPS has also begun developing what schools officials are calling “aspirational goals” that will drive Boston’s public schools forward and be determining factors in choosing a new superintendent. These goals include: improving students’ preparedness for college or a career; improving school quality; strong district leadership and action-oriented teachers and staff; effective resource allocation; and greater community engagement.

The first of six public hearings on hiring the new superintendent was held on Tuesday night at WGBH TV in Brighton. Other community meetings will take place on March 19 at Harbor Middle School in Dorchester, on March 20 at Orchard Gardens K-8 School in Roxbury, on March 25 at the Dever-McCormack K-8 School in Dorchester and on March 27 at East Boston High School in East Boston. All hearings run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

According to Boston School Committee Chair Michael O’Neill, the public hearings will give the search committee a wide range of input from the public — and especially parents and others who know the school system so well.

John McDonough has served as interim superintendent since May 2013, when he was appointed by the Boston School Committee following the retirement of Superintendent Carol R. Johnson. Johnson led BPS for six years and is credited with increasing the graduation rates to the highest level in the city’s history at that time, and also with increasing enrollment. McDonough is a BPS veteran and served as the school system’s chief financial officer for two decades, prior to becoming interim superintendent.