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Walsh pledges Boston will cast wide net for new superintendent

Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Thursday that the search for a new Boston school superintendent is wide open, emphasizing that the public will be deeply involved in choosing the next school chief.

“The question was asked of me: Do I have any idea of who I would like to see as the next superintendent,” Walsh said at a press conference, referring to a meeting that took place earlier in the day. “The answer is no.”

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Walsh said the next superintendent could come from within the school system or another part of the state or country. He promised an open process, saying, “The people of Boston will help us find the next leader.”

The mayor made his remarks as he and Michael O’Neill, the Boston School Committee chairman, announced the creation of a 12-member search committee, which the Globe first reported Thursday.

The goal is to have a new leader in place by September. But Walsh said at the press conference, at the Josiah Quincy School in Chinatown, that if he and School Committee members are unsatisfied with the pool of candidates, they will extend the deadline.

Some of the toughest questions came from a class of 10- and 11-year-olds. One boy, wearing a Patriots jersey, asked Walsh what qualities he was looking for in a superintendent.

“Great question,” Walsh said. “Somebody who cares about kids, somebody who cares in making sure we have the best school system in the world.”

He also said he wanted a superintendent who understands students and families of different ethnic and racial backgrounds.

While the School Committee officially hires the superintendent, Walsh carries considerable sway. That is because the mayor appoints the seven-member School Committee and the superintendent becomes a member of his Cabinet.

The search panel will be led by Hardin Coleman, a School Committee member and dean of Boston University’s School of Education, and Robert Gallery, president of Bank of America Massachusetts and a board member of education nonprofit Boston Plan for Excellence.

The panel will hold community meetings to find out what characteristics parents, students, teachers, and other interested parties want in a new superintendent. Working with a search firm, the panel will aim to identify around three finalists, who will be interviewed publicly.

John McDonough, the school system’s longtime chief financial officer, has served as interim superintendent since last summer, when Carol R. Johnson retired. He has said he is not interested in the job permanently.

James Vaznis can be reached at jvaznis@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globevaznis.
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