Santos: Homegrown finalist

Boston has named three finalists in the search for the next leader of the city’s schools. They are Marie Izquierdo, chief academic officer for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools in Florida; Dr. Brenda Cassellius, former Minnesota education commissioner; and Dr. Oscar Santos, head of school for the Cathedral High School in Boston’s South End.

Each faced a full day of public interviews this week: Izquierdo on April 22, Cassellius on April 23 and Santos on April 24, (Santos was interviewed after the Reporter went to press. A report on his interview will appear in next week’s edition and online at DotNews.com.)

All three finalists are people of color, and all began their careers in education in the classroom. Santos is a Boston College graduate who began teaching at English High in Jamaica Plain in 1996. After years as a headmaster and a superintendent of Randolph Public Schools, Santos was named the head of school at Cathedral High, a private Catholic school in the South End in 2013.

Most of Cathedral’s students are black or Latino, and Santos has faced student criticism — even protests — for failing to hire more diverse faculty and staff.

“It baffles me how this man is of Latino descent and does not see the importance of diversifying,” said Amel Viaud, who graduated from Cathedral two years ago. “If he couldn’t do that before, I do not think he could execute [it] now.”

Growing teacher diversity is one of the goals put forward in the recently updated job description for the BPS superintendent.

That said, Santos has overseen academic successes, including an uptick in test scores in an increasingly diverse Randolph and a continued trend of sending 100 percent of Cathedral graduates onto college.

There have been calls for more transparency and community engagement after the surprise exit of Tommy Chang and the hurried appointment of Laura Perille as interim superintendent last summer.

At times, Chang had struggled to win support for his more ambitious or consequential plans, like the closure of the Mattahunt Elementary School in 2016 and a systemwide reshuffle of school start times in late 2017. The district abandoned that plan after parents pushed back against the disruption of their families’ schedules.