Officials have brought a familiar face back to lead Boston Latin School for the foreseeable future. Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang tapped former system superintendent Michael Contompasis to serve as interim headmaster as he continues to search for a permanent replacement to lead the troubled school. Chang announced the decision during a Tuesday afternoon press conference with Mayor Marty Walsh.
Chang also named longtime BPS educator Jerry Howland assistant headmaster, and Alexandra Montes McNeil instructional superintendent to provide support in the areas of instruction, hiring, and budget.
“Together they will ensure that this historical institution serves as a model for a safe and welcoming environment for all students,” Chang said during the press conference. “They have dedicated their lives to educating students in Boston. Together these two gentleman have collectively served students of Boston Public Schools for more than 80 years.”
Contompasis is a a 1957 Boston Latin graduate who taught biology and chemistry at his alma mater before serving as headmaster of the school from 1976 to 1998. In 1998, he was appointed chief operating officer for Boston Public Schools before becoming superintendent of the district from 2005 to 2007. He then went on to become a senior field consultant at the non-profit Mass Insight Education.
“I understand firsthand that we all have a duty to preserve Boston Latin’s mission of providing the very best quality of public education,” Contompasis, who was unable to attend the press conference because of a family commitment, said in a statement. “That includes making sure all of our students, faculty, and staff feel safe and supported.”
Howland is also a graduate of the school, and worked in the district for 46 years. During that time, he served as headmaster of Another Course to College, house master in charge of discipline at the former Jamaica Plain High School, and head of the Math department at The English High School.
“What I love about Latin School is the fact that a kid from a housing project in Boston can get the highest-quality prep school education in a public school at no cost to his parents,” Howland, who was also unable to attend, said in a statement. “I am that kid.”
The interim headmasters are expected to serve a year. Chang said he will name the co-chairs of the Boston Latin School headmaster screening committee, which will launch a search for a permanent leader, in the coming weeks. Chang said he expects to appoint the permanent headmaster in March.
During the press conference, Walsh and Chang, who were surrounded by alumni of the school, stressed that these appointments were about moving on.
“Certainly we’re not going to let go of some of the concerns,” Walsh said. “There are also great administrators at the school. As I said to them last week, we don’t have to reinvent the administration. What we have to do is move forward.”
That push comes just a week after former headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta and Assistant Headmaster Malcolm Flynn, who had been at the school more than half a century, resigned from the school. Those resignations were met with resistance by the school’s faculty, who protested Teta and Flynn’s departures at a press conference. Many staff members said they didn’t believe Teta and Flynn resigned by choice, and instead were pressured by outside parties.
Flynn echoed this statement when he spoke to reporters at a press conference Thursday, and said that the people who were demanding the resignations, including Michael Curry, president of the NAACP, and Kevin Peterson, the director of New Democracy Coalition, weren’t familiar with the reality of the school environment.
“The feds are here because of complaints from people who have never been in this school,” Flynn said. “If you find a school where kids are more respectful to each other, let me know.”
The federal investigation, which is being conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as a separate probe by the district’s Office of Equity, came after two students posted a YouTube video criticizing Teta and other administrators for ignoring or not taking seriously complaints of racism. The Office of Equity found that administrators violated school policy in the handling of one of seven reported incidents.
The Boston Globe reported Friday that the School Department’s Office of Equity concluded its investigation earlier this month into five cases of alleged insufficient action by Boston Latin administrators. According to the Globe, one since-resolved incident involved a 13-year-old student with a personal connection to Teta.