In emergency, break glass, remove Contompasis

Boston Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang made the announcement about the new interim headmaster for the embattled Boston Latin School, but if you look closely, you can see Mayor Marty Walsh’s hand up his back.

Chang is from Los Angeles so his institutional knowledge of who can put out fires here is limited, but it should surprise no one that that one-time, longtime Boston Latin headmaster Michael Contompasis would be the guy to seal the breach.

“Since I’ve been mayor, he has been on my speed dial for a lot of different situations,” Walsh said at the press conference. Contompasis, who was out of town, wasn’t at the presser.

What’s likely is that Contompasis was on the mayoral speed dial when Walsh came in and he never removed him. Contompasis was the education go-to guy for the late Tom Menino as well, becoming the district’s COO and serving as interim superintendent in the years between Thomas Payzant and Carol Johnson. Menino also used Contompasis as a sounding board for education issues and Walsh appointed him to the search committee that resulted in Chang’s hiring.

Boston Latin, the nation’s oldest public school and the jewel of the city’s system, boasting some of the most historic figures in the nation’s history as alumni, has been reeling over allegations of racial insensitivity. The crisis resulted in the abrupt resignation of Lynne Mooney Teta earlier this month as well as a longtime assistant headmaster, who both felt that the Walsh administration was throwing them under the bus for the racial problems.

Without question, no one knows the impact of race on the exam school better than Contompasis, who has steered Boston Latin through roiling waters on both sides of the divide. Contompasis was the headmaster in 1976 when court-ordered desegregation required the city to reach a 35 percent quota of minority students admitted to the school as well as increase faculty diversity. By all accounts, Contompasis took it upon himself to recruit minority teachers to reach the 25 percent level.

Two decades later, Contompasis was still at the helm when Michael McLaughlin, a white Boston lawyer, sued the city over the racial quotas after his 13-year-old daughter Julia was rejected for admittance. Judge W. Arthur Garrity, whose original decision triggered desegregation and who ordered the set-aside, indicated the quotas would not pass constitutional muster and ordered Julia McLaughlin admitted. Just weeks before the trial was to begin, the city dropped its quota system.

But since then, minority enrollment in the school has dropped precipitously. In a system that has 80 percent students of color, nearly half the seats at Boston Latin are occupied by whites, many of whom come from private and parochial elementary schools. Blacks make up less than 9 percent of the student population, while Hispanics comprise 11.6 percent, according to state figures.

Leaders of the black community have been increasingly vocal about the atmosphere at Boston Latin, laying the blame squarely on Mooney Teta and her staff. They say because of the small numbers of blacks and Hispanics, it’s easy for the administration to dismiss concerns over harassment and bigotry.

And while the initial reaction to Contompasis’ appointment was guardedly optimistic, some questions arose later in the day as attention was called to an interview the 76-year-old career educator gave on WBUR supporting Teta and, in some interpretations, dismissing the allegations of racial insensitivity.

But for Contompasis, his marching orders at his alma mater are clear: Calm the roiling waters and steady the ship for a year while a search for a permanent replacement is underway. His responsibility isn’t to make wholesale changes in the attitudes at the school, but it’s hoped his knowledge and presence can ease the charged atmosphere. Because he’s been there, done that.

 JACK SULLIVAN

 

BEACON HILL

The battle over ride-hailing legislation is proving to be a windfall for lobbyists on both sides of the issue. (Boston Globe) Cab drivers make a last-ditch push against provisions they feel would go too easy on Uber and Lyft. (Boston Herald)

Never mind. The Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, prodded by the attorney general’s office, backs off a decision that would have forced the Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton to divest either the license it needs to produce wine or the license it needs to pour the wine at its restaurant. Gov. Charlie Baker spoke out in support of Nashoba when he heard about it. (State House News)

Attorney General Maura Healey is moving closer to filing suit to try to recover refunds due to those who bought tickets for the failed IndyCar race that was to take place in Boston’s seaport district. (Boston Globe)

A syrupy, (almost) venom-free ode to a Massachusetts pol from Howie Carr? A rare sighting, but that describes Carr’s account of a State House ceremony yesterday honoring former state treasurer Bob Crane. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS 

Thomas Farragher says the problems in Marty Walsh’s City Hall run deep, and declares it time for the mayor to “reboot his administration.” (Boston Globe) As if on cue, this morning’s news brings word of the indictment and arrest of a second Walsh administration official in the federal probe of union-strong arming, as Tim Sullivan, a former AFL-CIO official who became a top mayoral aide, joins former city tourism chief Ken Brissette on the federal court docket. (Boston Herald, Boston Globe) Here, via the Globe, is the indictment.

The Fall River City Council passed Mayor Jasiel Correia’s budget by a 5-4 margin after some contentious debate but included an order to drop the contract with a private trash hauler set to go into effect Friday. (Herald News)

CASINOS

The Supreme Judicial Court says a referendum that would add another slots parlor was properly certified for the ballot. The question now is whether the question will gain enough signatures to make it on to the ballot. (State House News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL 

Suicide bombers killed 41 people and injured 239 in attacks at the international airport in Istanbul, Europe’s third busiest airport. (BBC)

US Rep. William Keating and Sen. Edward Markey have filed bills in Congress to mint a series of commemorative coins in honor of the 400th anniversary of the pilgrims landing in Plymouth, which is in 2020, for those who are historically challenged. (Patriot Ledger)

Marijuana legalization makes it on to the November California ballot. (Governing)

The final 800-page report from the special congressional committee on Benghazi (read: Republicans)  shows a “devastating account of staggering dereliction of duty and deception,” or is a “compendious document that offers a handful of new details but nothing that will alter the conventional narrative” about what happened, depending on your choice of sources.

An analysis shows the last two terms of the Supreme Court has issued more perceived liberal decisions than at any time since the famously left-leaning Warren courts of the 1950s and 1960s. (New York Times)

 ELECTIONS

A new Quinnipiac poll shows Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in a virtual tie but many of those surveyed say the presidential campaign is fueling prejudice and hate and two-thirds lay the blame for that on Trump. (New York Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Shirley Leung says the state should pay for a $120 million makeover to a notoriously tangled traffic circle in Dorchester that would make it feasible for Bob Kraft to site a New England Revolution soccer stadium nearby. (Boston Globe)

A Brockton nonprofit that runs shelters is eyering an abandoned Catholic Charities property downtown to build housing for the homeless. (The Enterprise)

Greenfield had dismal Internet connections — so they’re building their own internet service provider and wiring the entire city, offering broadband service for a fraction of what commercial providers charge. (Greater Boston)

 EDUCATION

Darnell Williams and Kevin Peterson say the turmoil at Boston Latin also presents an opportunity. (CommonWealth)

 HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Abortion access for the Cape and Islands, where the only clinic (in Hyannis) closed eight years ago and the closest services are in Boston or Providence, has become a prominent issue in the Senate race but no one has offered a path for reestablishing a facility. (Cape Cod Times)

Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center published results showing a major breakthrough in the quest for an effective vaccine against Zika virus. (Boston Herald)

Health care workers are up in arms over a planned change in state regulations that would limit overtime for personal care attendants, a restriction caregivers say would most impact elderly and the disabled. (Standard-Times)

 TRANSPORTATION

Robert Mellion, the president and CEO of the Fall River Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry, urges state transportation officials to push ahead with the Middleboro rail route to his city and New Bedford. He estimates the cost at $200 million, way below the $3.4 billion estimate for a Stoughton route. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

State officials want to expand the deer hunt at Blue Hills, increasing the number of days, area, and yield over last year’s hunt, the first in more than a century at the reservation. (Patriot Ledger)

Michael Green, executive director of the Climate Action Business Association, calls for a fee on carbon. (CommonWealth)

 CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A former Ashland pastor who pled guilty to running a Ponzi scheme that bilked parishioners has been sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to repay $1.6 million in restitution. (MetroWest Daily News)

 MEDIA/ARTS

A new story released by J.K. Rowling brings a school of magic to our fair Commonwealth, where the  Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry sits atop the state’s highest peak, Mount Greylock in the Berkshires. (Boston Globe)

Dan Kennedy says even though Corey Lewandowski is a “partisan hack” and a “thuggish enforcer” for Donald Trump, that is no reason to oppose his hiring at CNN; the fact he signed a non-disclosure agreement (and possibly a non-disparaging one as well) with Trump is. (WGBH)