Boston Superintendent Carol Johnson seeks to reorganize executive team

Boston Superintendent Carol R. Johnson will propose tonight a new structure for her executive team that creates small networks of schools, with each overseen by a central-office administrator.

The goal of the new structure is to help principals do their jobs better and to provide more targeted support to students and teachers, Johnson said in an interview this afternoon before tonight’s School Committee meeting.

With the change, the School Department is also seeking to counter complaints by some that it is an unresponsive, compliance-driven bureaucracy.

“This is a different mindset,’’ Johnson said. “It’s about how an organization prioritizes schools and student learning.’’


The reorganization comes amid a number of high-level departures from School Department headquarters on Court Street, including that of Johnson’s most trusted adviser, former Deputy Superintendent Michael Goar, who previously worked for Johnson when she lead the Memphis and Minneapolis school systems.

Johnson announced in July that she would be shaking up her administrative team, after a series of incidents came to light that raised questions about a possible breakdown in communication and oversight up and down the ranks.

But Johnson said today she had been looking to overhaul the executive team months before the July announcement and had surveyed principals in the spring, which revealed a high-level of frustration among principals toward the central office on Court Street.

Chief among the concerns: Principals often had to talk separately with various Court Street departments to work out a single issue that often yielded conflicting information and no resolution — all of which took precious time away from the classroom and working on other school improvement efforts.

Under Johnson’s proposal, central office staff from various areas, such as academics, finance and human resources, would be assigned to a specific network so they can work together to help schools address issues.


An assistant superintendent assigned to each network would be responsible for improving student learning by coaching and evaluating school leaders. Each assistant superintendent would report to a deputy superintendent for academics.

The city’s approximately 80 elementary, middle and K-8 schools would be divided into six networks, based on geographic location. The high schools would belong to two other networks.

Johnson said the new structure should not produce any additional costs for the districts because some positions will be phased out to make way for the new positions.

It remains unclear when hiring of the new positions will begin.

Johnson said job descriptions are still being written and she may refine the proposal after she presents it to principals and headmasters Thursday.

Lynne Mooney Teta , the headmaster of Boston Latin School who sat on a committee that helped developed the proposal, said she was optimistic about the changes.

She said the structure will formalize an informal gathering of high school headmasters who have been working together on a number of issues in recent years. That group has included heads of exam schools, pilot high schools, and turnaround schools.

“We wanted a structure that would allow us to continue that collaboration and sharing,’’ Mooney Teta said

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