Walsh pledges Boston will cast wide net for new superintendent

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, announcing the formation of a search committee for a new school superintendent, promised an open and public process today and emphasized that there is no predetermined candidate for the job.

“The question was asked of me: Do I have any idea of who I would like to see as the next superintendent,’’ Walsh said at a news conference, referring to a meeting that took place earlier in the day. “The answer is no.’’

He said the chosen candidate could come from pretty much anywhere: inside the school system, other parts of the state, or across the nation. The goal is to have a new superintendent in place by this coming September. But Walsh said the timeline could be extended if he, the search committee, and the School Committee are unsatisfied with the pool of candidates.


Walsh and Michael O’Neill, chairman of the School Committee, officially announced the names of the 12-member search committee, which the Globe first reported this morning, this afternoon at the Josiah Quincy School in Chinatown.

Some of the toughest questions came from a class of 10- and 11-year-olds. One boy, wearing a Patriots jersey, asked Walsh what qualities he was looking for in a superintendent.

“Great question,’’ Walsh responded. “Somebody who cares about kids, somebody who cares in making sure we have the best school system in the world.’’

He also said he wanted a superintendent who understands students and families of different ethnic and racial backgrounds. About 87 percent of the school system’s 57,000 students are black, Latino, Asian, or another race or ethnicity. More than 40 percent of students live in households where more than one language is spoken.

While the School Committee officially hires the superintendent, Walsh carries considerable sway. That’s because the mayor appoints the seven-member School Committee and the superintendent becomes a member of his cabinet.

The search panel will be led by Hardin Coleman, a School Committee member and dean of Boston University’s School of Education, and Robert Gallery, president of Bank of America Massachusetts and a board member of the Boston Plan for Excellence, an education nonprofit.


The panel will hold a number of community meetings to find out what characteristics parents, students, teachers, and other interested parties want in a new superintendent as the panel attempts to write a job description. The panel, working in conjunction with a search firm, is expected to name three finalists, each of whom would be interviewed publicly.

The search to find a replacement for Carol R. Johnson, who retired in August, was left in limbo for most of last year as the city elected its first new mayor in 20 years. It was believed that the most qualified candidates would be reluctant to give Boston serious consideration until a new mayor was elected.

John McDonough, the school system’s longtime chief financial officer, has been serving as interim superintendent. He has said he is not interested in filling the post permanently.

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