Schools

Marty Walsh: ‘I would hope that the state would work with the city’ on improving BPS in lieu of takeover

"Allow this mayor, this School Committee and the new superintendent to do their jobs."

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Former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh says state education officials should work with Mayor Michelle Wu and other city leaders to improve Boston Public Schools without moving to a complete state takeover.

“I would hope that the state would work with the city of Boston and allow Mayor Wu the opportunity to bring in a new superintendent and kind of philosophy to be able to make her mark on the school district,” Walsh, now the U.S. Secretary of Labor, told Politico. “And it’s really challenging, it’s hard to do that, with a potential takeover.”

Exactly how the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will decide to move forward after its report last month of serious issues within Massachusetts’ largest school district is still unclear.

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However, DESE Commissioner Jeffrey Riley has expressed a willingness to work with Wu on some form of improvement plan without an outright state takeover of the city’s school system.

Wu and Riley, in their closed-door talks, have each put forth different plans.

Under the Walsh Administration, the city was able to reach a similar agreement following an earlier, also disheartening report on the state of BPS, which arrived just on the cusp of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

“When I was the mayor, we worked out an agreement with the Department of [Elementary and Secondary] Education to help turn our schools around. And then COVID happens,” Walsh recalled to Politico. “It’s very difficult to implement the changes and what you needed to do when kids are literally learning for almost a year not in school.”

Asked if a takeover of BPS is warranted, Walsh seemed to be against the option.

“I don’t think the Department of Education is prepared to take over the entire Boston Public Schools system. It’s 56,000 people,” the former mayor told Politico. “So what I would say is work off the guiding principles we put in place, extend that a little bit, maybe put some other [procedures] in place … but allow this mayor, this School Committee and the new superintendent to do their jobs.”

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Opponents of a state takeover have offered a similar argument — that with recent changes in city government and leadership, Boston should be given the chance to take on the district’s challenges with a fresh perspective.

“We’re moving towards more democratic governance,” City Councilor Kendra Lara said last month, referencing how voters backed an elected School Committee model last year. “We’re moving towards a different vision for BPS and now the state wants to come in and try to take over. This is an affront to the voters of this city.”

On Tuesday, the School Committee announced two finalists for superintendent of BPS, one of whom will take on the job ahead of the new school year this fall.

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