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Mass. school chief wants Boston superintendent job

Malone’s interest cited in form

Massachusetts Education Secretary Matthew H. Malone is seeking to become Boston’s next school superintendent, a courtship that apparently began more than a month ago, according to an ethics disclosure form obtained Wednesday by the Globe.

Malone, the state’s highest ranking education official, is the first potential candidate to publicly emerge since the search began in earnest three months ago. He has extensive administrative experience, having served as a headmaster at a Boston public high school and as superintendent in Brockton and Swampscott.

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The public disclosure form, obtained through a state public records request, was dated March 26. In the disclosure, Malone said he was contacted a day earlier by the consulting firm Boston hired to conduct the search to gauge his interest in the job. He went on to say, “I intend to express my desire to be considered by the search firm and the search committee for the position.”

Malone, 43, declined an interview request Wednesday, but said in a statement he was “humbled to be considered for the position.”

“I first began my career as a teacher in the Boston public schools and am the proud parent of two current [Boston public school] students,” he said.

Malone’s name emerges as the search for a new superintendent shifts into high gear. The school system began advertising the position last week after the School Committee approved a job description, and a search committee is expected to vet dozens of applicants at a meeting in just two weeks. The goal is to publicly identify finalists next month.

The rapid pace of the search is raising questions about whether enough qualified candidates can be found or whether an ideal candidate has already been identified. Malone’s disclosure is fueling further speculation.

“If the search firm was led to candidates by the mayor or his staff or anyone else before the search committee developed the job description, that certainly raises suspicions there is a hidden candidate in the wings,” said John Mudd, an education advocate.

Michael O’Neill, the School Committee chairman, declined to discuss Malone’s quest to replace Carol R. Johnson, who retired last August.

“As a matter of policy and deeply held personal belief, I will not have any comment about any individual applicant, potential or otherwise, now or at any point in the process,” O’Neill wrote in a cellphone text message. “As I have said repeatedly, we expect a wide range of individuals to apply for the position.”

Malone, who has been serving as education secretary since January 2013, has been lobbying for the job for weeks, said several observers. The disclosure form represents the first concrete evidence of Malone’s intent to apply for the job.

Under the state’s conflict-of-interest law, Malone was required to file the form with Governor Deval Patrick because his duties as education secretary and a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education potentially puts him in a position of influencing decisions that affect Boston’s school system.

But Malone emphasized in the disclosure form that he would not use the positions “to receive any special treatment in the application or selection process for a new superintendent of the Boston public schools.”

In Boston, Malone, a Roslindale resident, was headmaster of Monument High School, which has subsequently closed. He then served as an assistant to the superintendent in San Diego and later as superintendent in Swampscott.

He arrived in Brockton in 2009 as its superintendent with rock-star status, but his relationship with the School Committee eventually eroded. In 2012, after receiving a lackluster job review, Malone and the committee announced he would leave the following year.

Brockton’s School Committee had knocked Malone in the evaluation for stagnant MCAS scores in the elementary schools, even as the middle and high schools achieved gains.

They also faulted him for poor communication skills and failing to maintain a harmonious relationship with them, according to a Globe story at the time.

Malone also drew the ire of charter school advocates while in Brockton because he opposed plans to open what would have been the city’s first independent charter school.

His tenure as education secretary, however, has been smoother, championing the governor’s education agenda in travels across the state and pursuing policy initiatives. A pet project of his has been forming a partnership between Madison Park Technical Vocational High School and Roxbury Community College in hope of stabilizing both institutions.

Malone indicated in his statement Wednesday that his intention is to remain with Patrick until the governor’s term expires next January, a move that, if he gets the job, could upend Boston’s timeline to have a new superintendent in place by September.

But both O’Neill and Mayor Martin J. Walsh have expressed a willingness to extend the timeline if necessary.

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