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Dr. Brenda Cassellius Selected as Boston Public Schools Superintendent

On Wednesday, May 1, 2019, the Boston School Committee voted 5-2 to offer the position of Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools (BPS) to Dr. Brenda Cassellius, who most recently stepped down as Commissioner of Education for the state of Minnesota.

BC Headshot The vote was taken during a meeting where School Committee members publicly debated the qualifications of the three finalists for the Superintendent position, which also included Dr. Oscar Santos, Head of School for Cathedral 7-12 High School in Boston; and Marie Izquierdo, Chief Academic Officer for Miami-Dade County Public Schools in Florida.

Numerous public interviews with the three candidates were held with various stakeholder groups last week. Each candidate participated in a day-long round of four public interviews, totaling nearly 20 hours, which were grouped with community partners, parents, educators, and students. Video footage of the interviews are available online.

The Superintendent Search Committee included 12 parents across various panels. Elvis Rodriguez, a junior at Snowden International High School, is the first student in recent memory to participate on the Superintendent Search Committee and have a vote during the process of finalizing the selection of candidates. The co-chairs of the Search Committee were Alexandra Oliver-Davila, vice chairperson of the Boston School Committee and executive director of Sociedad Latina; and J. Keith Motley, former chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Cassellius, who must formally accept the offer for the BPS position, and would need to finalize conditions of her employment, including a salary and a starting date, through negotiations with the School Committee. (UPDATE: On May 8, the School Committee voted unanimously to provide Cassellius a three-year contract beginning July 1, 2019, with an option to renew for two additional years. Cassellius has accepted the position.) 

Cassellius would succeed Laura Perille, the current Interim Superintendent and former CEO of the education improvement organization EdVestors. Perille became the Interim Superintendent last summer following the resignation of Dr. Tommy Chang, who held the Superintendent role for three years.

Read Dr. Cassellius’ biography

Read Dr. Cassellius’ resume.

“With the selection of Dr. Cassellius, we’re investing in a proven leader who knows what’s right for kids and understands the value of community voice,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “The role of Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools is one of the most important and difficult jobs in the city. I’m pleased that the Boston School Committee selected someone with deep experience improving educational outcomes for students, and I congratulate Dr. Cassellius for her selection. All of the candidates were fully qualified and I would like to thank them for their time. I thank the Boston School Committee and the Superintendent Search Committee for conducting a thorough, transparent search process to make sure the right leader was selected for the Boston Public Schools.”

Cassellius served as Education Commissioner for Minnesota from 2011 through a change in administration earlier this year. She enacted comprehensive education reforms, including historic new funding for schools, enactment of all-day kindergarten, state-funded preschool for 25,000 children, and has overseen historically high graduation rates. She has also served on the board of directors for the Council for Chief State School Officers, and contributed to the development of “10 Equity Commitments,” which education chiefs across the country worked to adopt to further equity goals and outcomes. 

Cassellius began her education career in 1990 as a paraprofessional for students with special needs. She later became a social studies teacher, diversity coordinator, and assistant principal of schools in Minnesota before becoming an academic superintendent for the Memphis City Schools in Tennessee. From 2007-2010, she served as an associate superintendent for the Minneapolis Public Schools in Minnesota, and was superintendent of the East Metro Integration District in Maplewood, Minnesota, from 2010-2011 before becoming the state’s education commissioner.

“All three superintendent candidates brought excellent ideas and experience to the discussion. On behalf of the Boston School Committee, I thank all of them for participating in this public process,” said Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto. “We are excited to begin working soon with Dr. Cassellius, whose wealth of experience, commitment to equity, and proven track record as an education leader will be critical in continuing our progress in the Boston Public Schools.”

Interim Superintendent Perille said she is committed to working closely with Cassellius to ensure a smooth transition. Through the end of the school year, Perille will continue to lead ongoing district initiatives, including the BuildBPS facilities master planning process, high school improvement working groups, and expanding access to preschool under the Quality Pre-K Fund, along with daily operations.

“On behalf of the students, families, and staff of the Boston Public Schools, I would like to welcome Dr. Cassellius to the BPS community,” Perille said. “We congratulate her on this accomplishment. We will work together to fully support her as she prepares to lead the work of ensuring that all of our 55,000 students receive a high-quality education.”