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Neva Coakley-Grice Welcomed as New Chief of Safety Services for Boston Public Schools
Boston Public Schools (BPS) Superintendent Brenda Cassellius announced the appointment of Neva Coakley-Grice as the new Chief of Safety Services. Chief Coakley-Grice has spent her entire professional career working in Boston, starting as a Boston Police Officer in South Boston where she cherished her time working with students at the former Gavin Middle School and Tynan Elementary School, and has been a leader in community relations.
“Neva Coakley-Grice is a leader in our community who has a history of connecting with students and supporting schools,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “Chief Coakley-Grice understands the critical importance of this role, and has promised to engage honestly with the community and make necessary public safety adjustments and improvements in order to cultivate trust with families and ensure students thrive in safe, welcoming and culturally affirming learning environments.”
Superintendent Cassellius expressed her deep gratitude for retired Chief Eric Weston, who has worked with Boston Public Schools for 34 years.
“I knew last month when Chief Weston told me he was retiring that those were big shoes to fill,” said Cassellius. “Chief Weston has served our students and staff for more than 30 years and has done so with distinction. He was a leader in prevention and intervention strategies to keep youth out of the school to prison pipeline and leveraged partnerships from various organizations to support youth in and out of schools. I thank him for his leadership.”
Since being appointed as Superintendent, Cassellius has partnered with Mayor Walsh and Boston Police Commissioner William Gross to continuously improve the work of Safety Services team members in schools, as part of a larger strategy to focus on relationship building with students and staff. Superintendent Cassellius has also adjusted BPS policy on information sharing about student incidents and formed a new Student Data Sharing Policy Working Group to gather input from members of the community and advise on other reforms.
“I am thrilled by the appointment of Neva Coakley-Grice to Chief of the Boston Public Schools Safety Services Department,” said Boston Police Commissioner William Gross. “Chief Coakley-Grice is deeply committed to the communities of Boston and the students of Boston Public Schools. In her long history with the Boston Police Department, she brought this commitment to every assignment she has had. I am confident that the Boston Public Schools team is in great hands with Chief Coakley-Grice and look forward to working collaboratively with her and her team to support the youth of Boston.”
As Chief, Coakley-Grice will oversee the entire department which currently employs nearly 80 professionals in 55 schools and is dedicated to reviewing policies and practices to ensure that students and staff feel safe and supported in Boston schools.
“The safety of our students is our top priority - and when we say safety we mean creating environments where children can come as they are to the school building and feel loved, supported, and safe,” said Superintendent Cassellius. “Chief Coakley-Grice brings decades of experience forging relationships with young people and a child-centered disposition that will ensure the entire team is prepared to welcome students and staff into our schools every day.”
The BPS Safety Services team assists with greeting students in the morning, provides support throughout the day, and assists with end-of-day procedures, ensuring smooth transitions at critical points. After school, many team members continue to support students by serving as coaches to athletic teams. Members work to maintain safety around entrances to buildings, partner with teachers and administrators to identify challenges and prevent them from escalating, and implement other strategies to quiet situations and resolve them in the school.
Superintendent Cassellius highlighted Chief Coakley-Grice’s strong foundations in building relationships with youth, her strong community connections and her experience working with schools and looks forward to her leadership in forging those values throughout our schools.
“BPS Safety Services team members work for the safety and security of all students, staff, and Boston Public Schools facilities,” said Chief Coakley-Grice. “We are an integral part of the fabric in the school community’s culture and environment; we serve as coaches, mentors, instructors and educators, even while ensuring that all come and go safely.”
Chief Coakley-Grice was the only African-American female on the Youth Violence Strike Force and she was one of the only women leaders as part of the nationally-recognized Operation Homefront, as well as Operation Ceasefire, Operation Night Light, and the Department of Youth Services’s Re-Entry Program - all key components of the City of Boston’s focus on more effectively connecting with children and teenagers. She also led the coordination of the RISE Program and the Camp Frank A. Day Program, and was spokesperson for three Boston Police Commissioners.
“I have known Neva Coakley-Grice for my entire career and watched her stay connected and deeply involved with the community in every role she has had within the Boston Police Department,” said Boston Police Superintendent Nora Baston. “Neva understands the value and importance of building relationships and working closely with the community. She has helped this department foster and build trust through her 27 years of service and her experience will help her support the work of the BPS safety team as they work to engage with children and families in positive, meaningful, and supportive ways. She understands that schools cannot be ‘policed’ and that safety can be enhanced through establishing trust amongst students, families, faculty, staff, and administrators of the Boston Public Schools system. I am excited to work with Chief Coakley-Grice, as we share much of the same vision and goals.”
In 2019, Chief Coakley-Grice was awarded the prestigious Spirit of MAWLE (Massachusetts Association of Women in Law Enforcement) Mentoring Award. More recently, Chief Coakley-Grice worked in the newly formulated Bureau of Community Engagement, implementing the Commissioner's vision of community relations. The focus is on ensuring every police district has a dedicated and consistent community policing effort by concentrating on building relationships in the neighborhoods.