In a 4-3 vote at last week’s Boston School Committee meeting, Mary Skipper edged out Boston Public Schools (BPS) Region 1 Superintendent Tommy Welch to become the next BPS Superintendent.
With BPS recently avoiding receivership, School Committee members voting in support of Skipper pointed to her current post as Superintendent of Somerville Public Schools as a huge positive.
At last week’s meeting, School Committee Vice Chair Michael O’Neill praised both candidates’ qualifications and work to improve education but said BPS needs someone who is currently leading a school district and knows the monumental work that entails.
“I am honored and humbled to have been selected to lead the district that raised me as an educator and solidified my passion for making a difference in the lives of students,” said Skipper. “This is a pivotal time in Boston and BPS’ history, and nothing less than our student’s and our City’s future is at stake. I look forward to working with our families, educators, community leaders and our students to ensure every BPS student has the opportunity for a great education that sets them up for success in school and in life.”
However, the close vote left some with a sour taste as many BPS staff and principals in Region 1, which includes East Boston, the North End and Charlestown, were pulling for Welch.
Region 1, which Welch has led since 2015, has experienced an enormous transformation during his tenure. Nine of the 15 schools in his Region have been recognized for the EdVestors citywide “School on the Move” Prize.
Others pointed out that even though Welch isn’t a sitting superintendent his Region within BPS alone is twice the size of the entire Somerville Public School distinct that Skipper oversees, which has less than 3,000 students.
While Welch supporters were disappointed in the vote, Welch himself congratulated Skipper after the vote.
“My utmost congratulations to Mary Skipper, who will soon serve as the next Superintendent of Boston Public Schools,” said Welch in a statement. “Her dedication to BPS kids and families and her storied career in public education make her the leader BPS needs at this time. Despite the process not ending how I would have preferred, I have a renewed sense of commitment to my work in Region 1, and am encouraged more than ever before about the future of BPS.”
Welch said as BPS heads toward the upcoming school year, he will continue his work with the school communities in Eastie, Charlestown, and the North End.
“It is my goal to further support the students, families, staff members, leaders, and school communities of BPS,” said Welch. “Superintendent Skipper and I both care deeply about the future of Boston’s children. I look forward to working with our new leader and her team to improve educational outcomes for our young people in every neighborhood of our great city.”
According to BPS, Skipper must formally accept the offer for the position in order to begin the process of negotiating the conditions of her contract with the School Committee, including salary, benefits and starting date with BPS.
“I’m thrilled to welcome Superintendent Mary Skipper as the experienced leader and dedicated partner that Boston needs for our young people and families,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “In this moment of challenge and opportunity, Mary is uniquely prepared to drive forward the systemic reforms and immediate results our students deserve. Her knowledge and relationships from serving at every level in BPS–as a classroom teacher, school leader, and longtime district administrator–and as a successful superintendent in the area, will supercharge our work.”
Skipper has served as the Superintendent of the Somerville Public Schools (SPS) for seven years. She joined SPS in July 2015 following years of service at BPS.
She quickly made her mark in Somerville as an innovative and visionary thinker, a passionate advocate for all youth, and a strategic systems builder whose approach includes leveraging community resources to support students. Under her tenure, Somerville has emerged as a leader in using data to inform continuous progress and ensure a student-centered approach to teaching and learning driven by an unfailing commitment to equity of opportunity and access for all students.
“Tonight’s decision by the School Committee is a huge step forward for the District,” said Boston School Committee Chair Jeri Robinson. “On behalf of the School Committee, congratulations to Mary Skipper on becoming Boston’s next Superintendent. Under her leadership we will continue prioritizing the needs of our students so that they can receive the support and quality education necessary to excel inside the classroom. I would also like to thank Dr. Tommy Welch for his continued commitment to BPS, our students and our City.”
Before coming to Somerville, Skipper was Network Superintendent of High Schools for BPS, where she oversaw 34 high schools serving approximately 19,500 students. During her time as Network Superintendent, Boston’s public high schools achieved the lowest drop-out and the highest graduation rates in BPS history.
Among her most notable accomplishments while at BPS, Superintendent Skipper helped launch TechBoston Academy (TBA) as the founding Headmaster in 2002. Under her leadership, TBA grew from a 9-12 high school serving 75 students to a 6-12 school with a staff of more than 100 serving a diverse student population of more than 1,000, 30% of which were English Language Learners and 25% of which were Special Education students. The school’s success was marked in 2011 with a visit from then-President Barack Obama where he delivered a major education policy speech.
During this leadership transition, Skipper will work closely with Dr. Drew Echelson, who will serve as Acting Superintendent following the June 30 departure of Dr. Brenda Cassellius.
“I’m deeply committed to working closely with Ms. Skipper to ensure a smooth transition,” Dr. Echelson said. “Mary has always been a very empathetic listener who leads with purpose, humility and an unwavering belief in our children. I look forward to strengthening our work and leveraging much-needed reinforcements to accelerate reforms in BPS, especially as it relates to racial equity, Special Education, native language access, and improved transportation systems.”
Skipper holds a Bachelor’s in English and Latin from Tufts University. In addition, she earned a Master’s in Education Policy from Harvard and a Master’s in Education Leadership from Columbia Teachers College.