Boston’s new schools superintendent officially begins her new role

Mary Skipper’s official start date as Boston Schools’ new superintendent is Monday.

As the sixth person to hold the position in just the past decade, all eyes will be on how the Boston native and veteran school administrator will tackle long-standing challenges in Massachusetts’ largest school district – and if it will be able to stay in place.

“I am thrilled that Monday has finally arrived,” said Jeri Robinson, chairman of the Boston school committee. “Mary has been very involved behind the scenes since signing her contract.”

Skipper, most recently the Somerville Public Schools leader who agreed to a four-year contract with an annual starting salary of $300,000 in her new role, was unavailable for an interview for this story. In recent public remarks at the Boston Globe Summit, however, she underscored her intention to continue the work being done under Acting Superintendent Drew Echelson.

“It’s wonderful to be back,” Skipper, a former Boston Public Schools teacher, principal and administrator, told WBUR. RadioBoston in an interview in August.

“It’s wonderful to reconnect with so many colleagues here at BPS who are doing such great work. It’s also wonderful to welcome back those who have left and come back to have fun as we rebuild the BPS,” she added.

The Boston school committee, by a 4-3 vote in June, chose Skipper for the role over BPS Regional Superintendent Tommy Welch. Although the students’ first day back from Boston was on September 8, Skipper’s start date was delayed so she could wind down her role at Somerville.

The start of the new school year for Boston students has been challenged by transportation issues, including a month-long shutdown of the Orange Line that has complicated transportation options for thousands of students and families. of the BPS.

On-time school bus arrivals will be a priority this year, as will significantly improving services for English language learners and students with disabilities, in line with a school improvement plan the district has negotiated with the state Board of Education over the summer to avoid receivership.

The Bruce Bolling Municipal Building in Dudley Sq., home of Boston Public School Headquarters. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Although Skipper is entering the BPS system at a time of intense scrutiny, she has not released detailed plans for how she will lead the district to success.

She said in August that she wanted to develop “healthy, student-centered schools” that include “prioritizing and accelerating academic performance” and “rebuilding and improving access to social learning.” and emotional for our students”.

“I think Mary Skipper comes with incredible experience and talent, so I’m excited to step forward and take this opportunity to support her in this work, but also to continue to ask the hard question for myself. ensure that we do well for our children,” said Boston school board member Brandon Cardet-Hernandez.

Want to “rebuild the BPS”

Skipper arrives in Boston with an academic improvement record in Somerville Public Schools. During his seven-year tenure, Somerville Schools continued a positive trend of improving graduation rates, attendance, and MCAS performance. Dropout rates dropped during his time there, according to data collected by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Skipper recently told WBZ-TV that she is confident in her ability to transition from the Somerville Public Schools, which serve about 4,600 students, to the BPS system, which is about ten times larger.

“I am a practitioner, I am someone who comes from the field, I have been a teacher, a principal, I have managed a network of schools,” she said.

Much of Skipper’s career was spent at BPS. She spent 15 years working in Boston – first as a teacher, then a principal, and finally an administrator at the district’s central office. She also helped launch TechBoston Academy, a technology-focused school, in 2002.

The Dorchester resident and parent of three is the fourth permanent superintendent to run Boston schools in a decade — the sixth if you count interims. His predecessor, Brenda Cassellius, left after three years.

Skipper acknowledges the fleeting nature of the role and said she hopes to bring a sense of stability to the district — her time at BPS spanned a time that she says was more stable than it is now.

She told Radio Boston’s Tiziana Dearing in late August that she viewed the school improvement plan as the basis of the district’s goals and said the school system should aim higher than what has been set.

Filling district vacancies with diverse educators is also a priority.

Skipper told WBZ-TV in early September that she hopes to fill many roles by promoting staff who already work with the district and know the school culture. One example she cited is helping paraprofessionals get their teaching license and encouraging current teachers to become certified in additional skills.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu says she is confident about the future of BPS under Skipper’s leadership.

“We’re going to get it right,” Wu told WBUR in August. “We are going to hit all of our hurdles and benchmarks as much as possible. Not because we have to be compliant, but because our students deserve every resource and every opportunity. »

Robinson, the school board chairman, said success in Boston’s public schools will take more than the energy and ideas of a new leader. It has to be teamwork.

“It’s not the magic of an individual,” she said.

“My question is, is Boston prepared to support its superintendent?” Robinson added. “We have 10,000 employees, 50,000 families, a city council, more resources than any other part of the country. Do we want Boston’s public schools to succeed as a city? And if so, what [are we] ready to do to make sure that happens? »

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