Somerville Superintendent Mary Skipper, one of two finalists for the job running Boston schools, faced a rounds of questions Thursday, including what she did to advance the achievement levels of minority students, a major priority in the Hub.
Skipper said when she came to Somerville, leadership at the district was almost all white.
“I recognize that is a very big problem, given that we have a majority of our students speak a language other than English as their first language, and are students of color,” she said. “So one of the things I did was to start to develop a pipeline to get our talented educators of color…and to build that up.”
Today, her team ranges between 1/3 and 1/2 people of color, Skipper said.
“That has, in my mind, made all the difference in the world in our being able to walk the walk with the community,” she said.
Marinell Rousmaniere, a BPS parent and president and CEO of the nonprofit Edvestors, said Boston is “rich in resources and too often not strategic in how they are deployed.” She asked how Skipper would harness the “extraordinary partnership potential” that the city has among its nonprofit, higher education and philanthropic business communities to better serve young people.”
Determining what those three communities can offer and matching programming for those students is essential, Skipper said. It’s also important to identify ”holes” to make sure the resources are reaching the students.
Aisha Francis, a BPS parent and president and CEO of Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, Boston’s only technical college, asked how Skipper would improve the graduation rates of BPS “without going back to the drawing board.”
“The ultimate goal is that students can persist in and where they are, and by doing that, we need to make sure they’re prepared,” Skipper said. Teachers and principals need to identify students who are struggling and then build a menu of additional programming to address their needs, she said.
This afternoon, Skipper faces interviews with teachers and school leaders, students and families and ultimately the school committee this evening.
On Friday, Tommy Welch, BPS’s Region 1 K-12 superintendent, will follow the same schedule and answer the same questions, drawn from both the panelists and the public’s responses to a superintendent search survey. Questions may also be chosen live from the public via the question-and-answer function in Zoom.
The interviews will be conducted in the school committee chambers in the Bolling Building in Dudley Square in Roxbury and streamed on Zoom and on Boston City TV.