Wu walked fine line in superintendent pick

IT’S A FRAUGHT TIME for the Boston Public Schools – and not just because of the recent pressure from state officials, who held the threat of receivership over the system in order to reach an agreement with the city on an aggressive timeline for reform of basic district functions. The city, which has operated under mayoral control of its schools for more than three decades, also just completed a search for a new superintendent against the backdrop of growing public support for a return to an elected school committee.

That put Mayor Michelle Wu in the challenging position of wanting some say in the superintendent selection while going further than her predecessors to try to avoid appearing to bigfoot a process that puts all the official hiring power in the hands of the mayoral-appointed school committee. 

Wu opposed an advisory ballot question last fall, overwhelmingly approved by voters, asking residents whether they favor a return to an elected school board. But she said she would support a hybrid school committee in which a majority of members are elected while the mayor fills the remaining slots. Wu has nonetheless said she wants a strong role for the mayor in the schools and accountability for their performance. 

That was made abundantly clear in February when, less than three months after taking office, Wu announced that, by “mutual decision,” the city reached an agreement with then-superintendent Brenda Cassellius to end her tenure. 

The consensus in education circles was that Wu wanted her own leader at the helm of the schools. Though critics identified many shortcomings of the three-year tenure of Cassellius, a former Minnesota state education commissioner, the mayor never articulated the deficiencies in her performance that prompted the move to cut short the superintendent’s contract. 

As the search for a new district leader got underway, however, Wu did suggest that the schools might be best served at this time by someone with prior background in the system. 

In the end, the two finalists who underwent public interviews both fit that bill: regional Boston school superintendent Tommy Welch and Somerville school superintendent Mary Skipper, who spent years before that as a Boston Public Schools teacher and principal. 

In a narrow 4-3 vote last week, the school committee chose Skipper, who plans to take the reins in the fall. 

In 2015, hours before the school committee was to meet and settle on a new superintendent, then-mayor Marty Walsh made clear his support for Los Angeles educator Tommy Chang, who was then selected in a 5-2 vote. 

In contrast, Wu did not publicly declare her preference between the two finalists. Her office did not respond to a question asking whether she weighed in privately to school committee members. The two school committee members appointed by Wu since she took office voted for Welch. One well-placed Boston education observer nonetheless suggested Wu’s office did end up pushing for Skipper. “There was a lot of behind the scenes work done for the mayor,” the person said, adding, “My understanding is it could have gone either way until the very end.” 

The search committee had originally settled on four finalists, but two, a Black woman and Latina, withdrew from consideration before the public interview process. That prompted criticism that the final selection did not include a Black or Latino candidate in a district where those groups make up more than 70 percent of the student population. Skipper is white and Welch is Asian American. There were even calls to reopen the search process, something Wu and school committee chair Jeri Robinson quickly dismissed. 

The morning after the June 29 school committee vote, Wu figuratively – and literally – embraced the school district’s new leader in a media availability outside TechBoston Academy in Dorchester, the high school Skipper co-founded and President Obama visited in 2011. 

Whatever may have gone on behind the scenes, Wu and Skipper are now joined at the hip and will share credit – and blame – for what happens with the school district going forward. 




Dems propose one-time checks: Democratic legislative leaders say they plan to use surplus cash to send one-time checks of $250 to individuals and $500 to couples who meet moderate and low-income income guidelines. Lawmakers for some time have been promising a tax relief package, and this is the first tangible initiative, although a broader package may be coming.

– Some analysts said a one-time check is an effective and prudent way to distribute surplus tax funds that may not be around forever, but others said Beacon Hill can afford to do much more.

The rebates would be $250 for an individual or $500 for a married couple who file a joint tax return. They would go to residents who reported an income of at least $38,000 on their 2021 taxes and no more than $100,000 for an individual or $150,000 for a couple filing jointly. The rebates would be issued by September 30. Read more.

House ups ante: The House passed legislation extending some pandemic policies and a broad veterans bill that includes permission for veterans’ organizations to install slot machines at their facilities. The bills, which differ significantly from Senate versions, add to the Legislature’s to-do list with time running out in the session. Read more.


RTAs deserve more: Brockton Mayor Robert Sullivan and Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner make the case for larger and more stable funding for regional transportation authorities across the state. Read more.



The Massachusetts Senate unanimously approves an ambitious bill to reshape early childhood education and care. (GBH)


Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated by a gunman in the city of Nara while campaigning for a candidate in the country’s upcoming national elections. (New York Times

President Biden gives the Medal of Freedom to 17 individuals, including Denzel Washington, Simone Biles, and the late John McCain. (NPR)


The Democratic candidates for attorney general outline different strategies to protect access to reproductive health care and abortion in Massachusetts. (MassLive)


Businesses in the Berkshires are experimenting with a currency unique to the region to avoid the cost of credit card fees. (WBUR)


Elvio Ferreira, the superintendent of Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Fall River, is leaving half-way through his six-year contract to become director of career and technical education for the Brockton Public Schools. (The Enterprise)  


The Peabody Municipal Light Plant raises its rates for the first time in 10 years. (Daily Item)

People of color are underrepresented in the burgeoning clean energy industry. (USA Today Network)


Two Worcester pregnancy crisis clinics that offer counseling, but not abortion services, were vandalized on Thursday, the latest in a series of attacks on such facilities nationwide. (Boston Globe

Suffolk DA Kevin Hayden decried lax gun laws in other states that he said explain why more than three-quarters of firearms used in Boston-area crimes originate from out of state. (Boston Herald

Prosecutors are seeking stay-away orders from judges to keep those driving the drug problems in the Mass. and Cass area of Boston from returning there while court cases are pending. (Boston Globe


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Bank president and philanthropist Peter Joseph Muise, of Marion, who was passionate about combatting homelessness, dies at 67. (Standard-Times)

Thomas Burke, the retired West Springfield police chief who had a 42-year career with the department, dies at 77. (MassLive)