BPS Superintendent Finalists Address Community Questions

Over the last week, we polled Boston families about what issues they want the three BPS Superintendent finalists to address in their interviews. A number of issues surfaced as priorities, including school funding, diversity, and family engagement. Here’s what each candidate had to say on each of these issues, and others:

On involving families & communities in decision-making: 

Marie Izquierdo: “Though I have experience as a leader and an educator and I have great ideas for Boston, I don’t intend to come in with preconceived notions. I will listen, learn and lead.”

Brenda Cassellius: “I wouldn’t want to assume that because something worked in Minnesota or in Memphis or in any other setting I’ve been in, that it’s going to actually work here. I’d like to know from the community what it is [that] has worked and not worked . . . If I were your superintendent, when school starts, I would, within the first 100 days of school starting, get into every single school.”

Oscar Santos: “Having different perspectives from parents, from students and from teachers are helpful because they frame what are some of the needs that may not be happening. One of the things I think is critical is to listen to the people who are living in the schools… if the schools, students and student voices aren’t represented and their thoughts and ideas aren’t being heard then we aren’t doing the right things to support their needs.”

On school funding:

Marie Izquierdo: “As your superintendent, I would be the biggest cheerleader for Boston Public Schools…I have a pretty big mouth and I tend to use it when I need it. I have lobbied in Tallahassee, I have sat before task forces at the state level that are cutting resources to schools. I think there is room for that in Boston…..I know that the state of Massachusetts’ rate of investment in our school district has decreased over time…which I think is criminal. I know that there are measures being considered at the state level…to “right” that…I would be a voice to ensure that we get what we rightfully deserve as one of the greatest cities in America.” 

Brenda Cassellius: “My core principle is that if you give a dollar, it should follow a kid…If a student is earning and generating those dollars, the dollars should be following a student. It shouldn’t be that school districts can just go ahead and spend that money however they wanted to spend that money without any transparency and engagement with parents and the community…Transparency in budgeting is one of the most important things we can give to parents….I’m more about getting money out to schools and the children, rather than build bureaucracy.”

Oscar Santos: “Your budget is the clearest signal of your core values. What you spend your money on is what you value more than anything else. You need to have the voices of the principals, the parents, the school site councils.”

On diversity:

Marie Izquierdo: “We have to understand that race, class, culture are enormous influencers of our behavior.” (Izquierdo said she would train all adults who interact with children with anti-bias awareness).

Brenda Cassellius: “I think it’s important, I think it’s essential that students have teachers that look like them. Recently, we (in Minnesota) just passed tiered licensure to allow for the recruitment of teachers of color because we’ve been trying to get more teachers of color into the field. We’ve also put money toward “Grow Your Own” programs…Once we do get teachers of color into the community, I think it’s important that we support them so that there’s not just the recruitment but there’s also the retention through the building of a welcoming community, with affinity groups and other supportive structures.” 

Oscar Santos: “Teacher diversity is good for all students, not just Latinos. It teaches empathy and how the world works…Integration of students and having opportunities for students to be as integrated as possible…that is one of the ultimate strategies to close achievement gaps and opportunity gaps because you’re building pathways for students and families to build relationships.”

On academic standards:

Marie Izquierdo: “One of the most important levers that any school district can pull to make sure that we have a world class education available in every neighborhood is to make sure that students are being pushed and that students have access to standards that are at their grade level.”

Brenda Cassellius: “I don’t really care for standardized testing. I’m an open book about that over the past eight years. I’m not a big supporter of it. I think that it allows for accountability, and it allows for larger scale decisions. But I don’t think that tests ought to be used for individual high-stakes decisions ever.”

Oscar Santos: “All BPS high schools need to adopt MASSCORE standards.”