Thoughts on the Boston Superintendent Search

In the past few weeks, the Boston Superintendent Search Committee has held a couple of hearings and community feedback sessions at the Bruce Bolling Municipal Building. What critical component was missing?

Community.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, voting is your passport to democracy. Use it!

The Boston Public Schools serve mostly children of color and the next superintendent will serve a critical role in bridging the education equity gap in Massachusetts. We can only shut down the school-to-prison pipeline by tapping into parent activism.

We flexed on Election Day, but we need to flex at these meetings. These problems were not created overnight and they will not be solved overnight.

Don’t worry, though! There is still time to make sure you get your voice in the mix. Follow the link! Parents in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan are failed the most by BPS and need to have their voices heard. Don’t miss your opportunity.

Over the last few weeks, Massachusetts Parents United Boston Chapter has hosted feedback sessions at Dudley Cafe in Roxbury with dozens of parents, teachers, and students taking part in the conversations.

Here is what we heard from a few participants (edited for length and clarity):

  • Jamal, a Somali immigrant, focused on the bus crisis. He said BPS needs a superintendent that will honor and fix the driver contract, increase the transportation budget, and add monitors on buses.
  • Solomon, a Roxbury business owner, thinks the incoming superintendent’s priority should focus on bringing fun back to learning and finding creative ways for children to learn and that he or she should also have a background in child education, psychology, and/or mental health.
  • Maya, a senior at Boston Latin Academy, had a lot to say on the subject. She believes that “the new superintendent should focus on all the schools that have been forced to either completely close, mix with other schools, or change to charter schools. Too many schools are level 4 or 5 and most times, these are schools in communities that are made up primarily of students of color. Ultimately, Maya wants the following in the incoming superintendent: “Communication skills. We need to include students and parents in the conversation because ultimately, they are the ones who will be affected the most by the decisions made. It’s a matter of professionalism; parents and students deserve the respect of being included in the conversation. They need to strive not to save kids, but to improve the system. Kids don’t need to be saved. They need to be educated.”
  • Nikan, a teacher from the O’Bryant School, said the focus needs to be on teachers, students, and families! He said, “Keep them in BPS any way you can because too many parents are voting with their feet and seeking better options for their children. Make more teacher leaders by supporting growth and innovation to improve attendance and after-school support for all schools. Another thing that is important is equity and access across BPS schools.” He asked, “Why are two schools so different in student outcomes? We need to push for more social-emotional support in all schools and data tracking of students post K-12, and provide 4 to 6 years of support for school and job access after a student graduates.” He sums up the experience he is looking for in the next superintendent as “six years teaching in the classroom, five years leading a department, and a good, honest, and accountable communicator to families.”

At Massachusetts Parents United, we believe that parents need to lead the charge of activism. This matters whether you are advocating for pedestrian safety at bus stops so kids make it to school safely, ensuring children in the Commonwealth are fed so they can learn, or speaking out so that parents have multiple options to prepare their children for a successful life.

Some folks say the next superintendent of schools for the City of Boston needs to be someone who is from Boston and can maneuver Boston’s political minefield like a swamp creature. At MPU, we believe we need a person of color who understands the complex history of systemic racism in the City of Boston and understands the importance of disrupting the status quo that isn’t working for so many of our children.

The current toxic, exclusionary Boy’s Club atmosphere in Boston is harmful to our children. We need a nationwide search for a Boston Public School Superintendent who will move us from a place of minimal compliance to affirming parents role in redefining a multicultural public school system.

Join the conversation by taking 5 minutes to tell the Boston School Committee what you think in this forum.

By Ed Shoemaker

What do you think?

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