Rep. Walsh calls for suspension of search for a school superintendent

By 
Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Jul. 18, 2013

State Rep. Marty Walsh, a mayoral candidate, on Thursday called on the School Committee to suspend its search for a new superintendent. Citing a Reporter story that sketches out a rough timeline for the search, Walsh released a lengthy statement in which he raises and blasts the possibility of an “accelerated” search intended to limit a new mayor’s role in the selection.

“To start the process without the input from the mayor who will lead the city during the tenure of the next superintendent makes no sense,” Walsh said. “It is wrong to rush opportunities for community input during the summer. It also makes no sense to run the selection process at the same time as the election and lose the benefit of the public debate about the future of our schools.”

Walsh added: "I can only assume that an accelerated search is intended to limit the new mayor’s role in selecting the superintendent. Such thinking is likely to place the school committee, superintendent and mayor in conflict starting on day one, which cannot be in the best interest of any party, and Boston Public Schools."

At an education forum in Roslindale in June, City Councillor Michael Ross, a fellow mayoral candidate, argued that the School Committee should hold off on starting to choose a superintendent until a new mayor takes office, or is at least elected. "I'm happy that Representative Walsh has joined me in calling on the Boston School Committee to not begin the search for a new superintendent until we have a new mayor," Ross said in a statement Thursday. "I hope all the candidates agree with me that waiting to start the search process until a new mayor is seated, or at least elected, will attract the best candidates, who will bring innovative ideas to improve our schools."

Michael O’Neill, the chair of the School Committee, told the Reporter earlier this week that school officials plan to hold meetings this summer in order to gather community input on policy issues and characteristics that people want in the new superintendent. The School Committee will then name a search panel and a search firm will be chosen in the fall. The job will be posted in October or early November.

The names of finalists will likely be clear early next year, O’Neill said. “That’s a rough timetable,” he added.

An expert in superintendent searches told the School Committee in May that a high quality search can take a year to a year and a half, on average, and O'Neill pointed to the expert's presentation this week.

The new mayor will be sworn into the job in early January.

John McDonough, school system’s longtime budget chief, has an open-ended agreement with the School Committee to serve as interim superintendent for as long as necessary.

Rep. Walsh’s full statement is below.

The Dorchester Reporter reported yesterday that the search process for a new Boston Public School Superintendent has begun. I am calling on the Boston School Committee to stop their plans to search for a new superintendent until the new mayor is selected. A viable and thoughtful search process begins by describing the long-range vision for the district, and the qualities the district is looking for in its next superintendent. The search provides the opportunity for neighborhood voices to be heard on the questions of how satisfied we are with our schools, and examine our direction for the next 10 years. Providing answers to these questions will shape the candidates and the selection of the finalist.

To start the process without the input from the mayor who will lead the city during the tenure of the next superintendent makes no sense. It is wrong to rush opportunities for community input during the summer. It also makes no sense to run the selection process at the same time as the election and lose the benefit of the public debate about the future of our schools. It is unnecessary to rush through the process when a new superintendent will not likely be available to begin a new position until the end of the school year.

Some of the strongest candidates may be among current superintendents who have the knowledge and experience to lead a major urban district. It is also likely that some of the strongest candidates will not jeopardize their current situation to work in Boston with a mayor who may or may not share their vision. It makes no sense to limit the pool of potential candidates or risk the cost of a second search that more inclusive.

It is surprising that the school committee would choose to begin the process knowing the likelihood of failure. I can only assume that an accelerated search is intended to limit the new mayor’s role in selecting the superintendent. Such thinking is likely to place the school committee, superintendent and mayor in conflict starting on day one, which cannot be in the best interest of any party, and Boston Public Schools.

As mayor, I will work to ensure that every Boston Public School is a quality school. I accept the responsibility for improving schools and school facilities, and engaging all Boston neighborhoods in setting the direction for our schools. I will work with the Boston School Committee to begin the search process, including seeking neighborhood input, in November.

I want a superintendent who can build leaders at all levels, who recognizes that the success of schools is vital to Boston’s continued economic development, and who is committed to all Boston’s children and families. As mayor, I will look for a school committee and a superintendent who shares my vision, and who will work with me to make every school a quality school.”