The Boston School Committee has selected former Minnesota education commissioner Brenda Cassellius as the system’s next superintendent,
The Boston Globe reports that committee members say Cassellius was the best candidate to repair bruised relationships with the community and boost student achievement.
“We are happy to have someone who can be a uniter and bring the district forward,” says Committee Chair Michael Loconto.
Cassellius, 51, also is a finalist for state superintendent in Michigan. In a statement after the vote, she did not address the Michigan search and indicated that she is accepting the Boston superintendent job.
“I am humbled and honored to join the students, parents, educators, and school leaders who are the heart of Boston Public Schools,” she said. “The deep commitment from so many partners and community stakeholders I’ve met has been evident throughout this process. I appreciate the rich diversity of Boston and look forward to getting to know and working alongside the entire community on behalf of our students and schools.”
Mayor Martin J. Walsh praised Cassellius for her “deep experience improving educational outcomes for students."
Two school committee members — Alexandra Oliver-Davila and Lorna Rivera — voted for Marie Izquierdo, chief academic officer for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
Three finalists were in the running for the top job: Cassellius; Izquierdo; and Oscar Santos, president of Cathedral 7-12 High School in Boston.
Heading into the vote, Cassellius had garnered the broadest support among parents, students, educators, and community activists.
Izquierdo received support from Latinos for Education, and Santos had fans among some school system insiders, including former superintendent Michael Contompasis.
The School Committee has the final say on choosing a superintendent, but Walsh carries considerable influence in the decision because he appoints the seven-member board, and the superintendent is a member of his cabinet.
Boston has been looking for a new superintendent for almost a year. Former superintendent Tommy Chang resigned last June. He and Walsh had a rocky relationship at times as controversies arose.
A public uproar ensued and intensified after Walsh announced that he would be recommending Laura Perille, a nonprofit executive with no experience working in public schools, to serve as interim superintendent. The School Committee approved her appointment.
Perille disclosed in October that she would not seek a permanent appointment. By then, several parent, educator, and civil rights groups were calling on her not to apply.
Cassellius, who served eight years as Minnesota’s education commissioner, has had an extensive career that began in Minnesota as a paraprofessional and a teacher.
She worked in Minneapolis under former Boston superintendent Carol Johnson when she was leading that system. Johnson lured Cassellius to Memphis when Johnson was superintendent there, putting her in charge of middle schools. Cassellius worked briefly as a superintendent in Minneapolis before being appointed commissioner.