Mayor scraps ‘education chief’ position

As Brenda Cassellius takes over as the next superintendent of the Boston Public School system, she won’t be working alongside a cabinet-level aide to the mayor. Mayor Martin Walsh said on Friday that he won’t appoint another “education chief” for the foreseeable future.

Walsh said the position makes less sense today than it did in 2014, when he first took office.

“When I ran for mayor of Boston, there was a lot going on,” Walsh said, including his campaign promise for universal pre-kindergarten and the district-wide facilities overhaul now known as ‘BuildBPS.’ As he took office, Walsh said he anticipated that he’d need to establish a more collaborative relationship between public, private, and charter schools.

“In the past, I’d felt that the BPS superintendent got bogged down in those issues” which extend beyond their typical responsibilities, Walsh said. With that in mind, he appointed Rahn Dorsey — a veteran of the Barr Foundation — to lead his ‘education cabinet’ and bridge the gaps between the sometimes siloed worlds of education and government.

Dorsey stepped down from the position last November.

Walsh said that while the idea of an education chief is “on ice,” he may appoint an education adviser in the future, as necessary.

For his part, Dorsey said he was “a little disappointed” by the change, saying, “I hope it doesn’t mean taking our collective eyes off of the need for a pretty holistic strategy” for education in Boston. He said some of the city’s educational problems are solved by “making sure that we show up in other points in young people’s lives, and show up for their families” outside of the classroom, too.

But, he added, ultimately “what matters most to me is that the city continues to dedicate sufficient capacity to supporting whole-child development ... from pre-K to early adulthood, in and out of school.”

Cassellius, for her part, isn’t concerned about working in a political context, no matter her exact reporting relationships. “One thing’s for sure: it will take the school committee, me and the entire BPS team — and the mayor leveraging his entire cabinet — to support children and families,” she said.