Two named finalists for superintendent of Boston Public Schools

Two educators with extensive leadership experience in Boston Public Schools have been named finalists in the city’s search for its next superintendent, the Boston School Committee announced Tuesday.

The finalists are Somerville Superintendent Mary Skipper and BPS Regional Superintendent Tommy Welch. Skipper and Welch will each participate in a day-long interview process – Skipper on Thursday and Welch on Friday – that the public can access remotely on Zoom. Each day will end with in-person interviews of the candidate by the School Committee at its Bolling Building headquarters in Roxbury. A full list of events and Zoom links are available on the city’s website.

Two other candidates who were not identified recently withdrew, Mayor Michelle Wu said at a school groundbreaking event on Tuesday.

“The search committee went through an incredibly rigorous and robust process,” Wu said. “I’m so grateful at all of the community input that guided our process from the very beginning of multiple rounds of interviews over two dozen candidates who really were a very strong pool. And at each stage of the process, it’s been an incredibly qualified, strong and diverse pool of candidates. “

Wu had signaled early on that she favored hiring a new superintendent who had experience in the system. Superintendent Brenda Cassellius is resigning at the end of June after three years in the position. But some have called the search rushed.

Edith Bazile, an education activist and graduate of the system, called the seach a major decision at a challenging time when the system is under review by the state for receivership or a takeover for failing to meet educational goals and contract negotiations with the teachers’ union . Neither candidate is Black or Latino, even though the majority of Boston Public School students are.

“I think there’s a lot of conversations that need to take place. And the community has a lot of questions regarding this process, and how it has evolved, because it’s evolved primarily in secrecy,” Bazile said. “And so I think time will tell, I’m curious to find out more about the candidates. And look at the backgrounds of the track record of success with students, their relationships with communities, with parents and families. But I think we’re in a mode where there are a lot of questions, but very few answers. “

Skipper is in her seventh year as Somerville’s superintendent. Prior to that, she was a network superintendent of high schools for BPS, where she oversaw 34 high schools serving approximately 19,500 students. During her tenure in that role, Boston high schools saw their lowest drop-outs and the highest graduation rates in the district’s history, a spokesperson said.

Skipper, who lives in Dorchester and has three children, holds a bacherlor’s degree from Tufts University. She earned a masters in education policy from Harvard and another master’s in education leadership from Columbia Teachers College.

As a Region 1 superintendent in BPS, Welch works with 15 schools across Charlestown, East Boston and the North End. He came to the district seven years ago, but has worked in urban schools for more two decades. He was the founding principal of a middle school and later a high school in the South Central neighborhood of Los Angeles. His classroom teaching experience focused on English learners and special education inclusion in the lower elementary grades, as well as English at the high school level.

Welch is a graduate of Occidental College and the University of California, Los Angeles. In 2020, they earned his doctorate in educational leadership at Boston College. He lives in East Boston with his wife and is a parent of two BPS students.

Travis Marshall, a member of the grassroots parents’ group Quality Education for Every Student, said the leadership changes in the district over the last decade have made it difficult to plan around which schools need to be renovated or closed.

He said he hopes the next superintendent will pick up where Cassellius has left off, instead of beginning planning all over again, because parents have already seen too many proposals and studies come and go.

“We’ve had kids in the system for almost eight years now,” Marshall said. “Whenever these new buildings come online, it’s going to be after my kids are even long gone and have graduated from BPS. I just don’t I don’t have a lot of faith that there’s urgency to, to really give students the facilities that they deserve across the city.

The School Committee will vote on the next person to be the city’s superintendent at its meeting Wednesday, June 29.

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