Two people are being considered the finalists for superintendent of Boston Public Schools, the embattled district announced Tuesday.
They are Mary Skipper, the superintendent of Somerville Public Schools, and Tommy Welch, who oversees 15 BPS schools as the Region 1 superintendent, the district's Search Committee said. Each has years of experience within the district, which may help either of them turn around endemic problems that the state has identified at BPS.
Skipper and Welch will be interviewed in publicly available Zoom hearings on Thursday and Friday, respectively, the district said. The committee aims to vote on extending an offer to one of the candidates at its meeting on June 29.
Brenda Cassellius is leaving the post on June 30. Deputy Superintendent of Academics Drew Echelson is slated to serve as acting superintendent before Cassellius' replacement is appointed.
"I'm excited to be at this final stage in our search process and so grateful to the Search Committee for leading a robust process that yielded a strong, diverse pool of candidates with a wide range of lived and professional experiences," Mayor Michelle Wu said in a statement.
After starting the search process in March, the BPS Search Committee narrowed the field down from 34 candidates for superintendent through a series of private interviews. Two candidates withdrew from the proceedings, the district said.
"The district's next leader must be ready to take on the challenges facing the district and share in our commitment to equity and inclusion, increasing academic achievement, and engaging deeply with all community members," Boston School Committee Chair Jeri Robinson said in a statement.
Skipper and Welch will be interviewed from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Zoom, with the same list of questions available both days drawn from members of the panel as well as a survey sent out to the public. Other questions for the candidates may be selected from Zoom's Q&A function, the district said. See the schedule here.
Cassellius began as Boston's school superintendent in the summer of 2019 after serving as Minnesota's education commissioner, and led the district through the pandemic. Wu and Cassellius have called the superintendent's decision to step down a mutual one and has thanked her for "steadfast leadership, grace and courage."
Her successor will have a series of issues to tackle right away.
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education last month said in a scathing report that Boston Public Schools is struggling to operate on a basic level and is not addressing "systemic barriers" to equitable education. It credited Cassellius for progress on some initiatives but said that "BPS needs immediate improvement," including steady leadership.
The report noted concerns over maintaining momentum on recent improvements "and follow through with quality execution are especially important for BPS, given the district’s continued leadership instability."
There has also been talk of placing BPS into state receivership, which would allow an administrator appointed by the state education commissioner to oversee the district's operations until it improves on predetermined metrics.
Both the candidates for filling the job have extensive experience within Boston Public Schools.
Skipper has been superintendent of Somerville Public Schools for seven years after rising to the position of network superintendent of high schools, overseeing 34 schools and 19,500 students. She was the founding headmaster of TechBoston Academy.
The announcement called Skipper "an innovative and visionary thinker, a passionate advocate for all youth, and a strategic systems builder," and noted that her time overseeing BPS high schools saw Boston high schoolers graduating at the highest rates in system history.
She told the Somerville schools community Tuesday that she would be a finalist, writing in a letter obtained by The Boston Globe that, "I would love to continue to work here, and it would be an honor to finish my career in Somerville. And yet at the very same time, I still feel called to BPS - the place that raised me as an educator and professional."
Welch oversees 15 schools and their more than 7,000 students in Charlestown, East Boston and the North End. He joined BPS in 2015 from Los Angeles, where he founded a middle school in the South Central neighborhood.
"His work prioritizes the improvement of the academic outcomes of students and connects leaders and resources within the network to provide a coherent instructional vision for all schools," the announcement said.