Baker’s hybrid proposal for school panel aired

Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Mar. 6, 2013

City councillors took testimony last week on District 3 Councillor Frank Baker’s proposal to switch the makeup of the School Committee to a mix of elected and appointment members from an all-appointed crew. “How do we know if this plan is unworkable? We won’t until we try,” said Baker, who is pushing for four mayorally appointed members and three elected citywide. The plan provides independence and accountability for parents, he said.

District 6 Councillor Matt O’Malley, who chaired the Government Operations Committee hearing, sounded positive notes, saying it was a “complicated” issue that will be the subject of one or more working sessions to hammer out a potential compromise. District 7 Councillor Tito Jackson also made supportive statements. John Connolly called the current seven-member School Committee a “rubber stamp” and said he supports the proposed change.

Former Boston Public Schools superintendent Michael Contompasis testified against the proposal, saying when Boston had a 13-member elected School Committee, members focused on constituent services at the expense of policy decisions. “In many instances, the elected members served their constituents to an extent where they literally micromanaged the district,” he said, claiming that headmasters and principals received phone calls from members about hiring decisions.

Accountability exists in the current system, he added. “If you don’t like the decisions made around the school committee, vote the mayor out,” he said.

Several organizations also weighed in, with a Boston Teachers Union representative thanking Baker for submitting the proposal and the business-backed Boston Municipal Research Bureau calling the plan “divisive and incompatible with the need for real accountability.”

The proposal needs the approval of the council, the mayor and the Legislature, an alignment widely viewed as unlikely to happen.