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Boston Superintendent Brenda Cassellius passes the test & secures her superintendent’s license

She had let her license expire on July 31

Superintendent Brenda Cassellius speaking to the media at the Mildred Avenue K-8 in Mattapan.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File 2020

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Boston Superintendent Brenda Cassellius secured a full-fledged license on Friday to work as a superintendent in Massachusetts after passing the state’s licensing exam, ending weeks of speculation about her future running the state’s largest school system.

Cassellius had allowed her temporary license to lapse on July 31 because she never took the licensing test in the two years since she started working as Boston’s superintendent. In a gesture of goodwill last month, state Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley reactivated her temporary license after she scheduled a time for the exam, which she took in mid-August, and waited for the test results.


The test scores from the MTEL communications and literacy skills exam arrived on Friday.

“I am pleased today to learn that I passed the licensure exam and have completed this last component of the state’s licensure requirements,” Cassellius said in a statement. “I look forward to welcoming our Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten students back to school on Monday and remain committed to the important work ahead.”

Cassellius, a former state education commissioner in Minnesota, now is working under an initial superintendent’s license, which was issued to her Friday morning by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, according to information posted on its website. The license is valid for five years and is a standard license superintendents receive early in their careers.

State licenses, which are required for teachers and administrators alike, are intended to document that professionals have the right qualifications for their jobs and they’ve passed a test of basic skills. It is illegal for educators to work in Massachusetts without the proper license.

Cassellius holds three licenses in her home state of Minnesota to work as a social studies teacher, a principal, and a superintendent, but those licenses are not valid for use in Massachusetts.


Having a qualified leader in the school system’s top job is critical as Boston embarks on a school year under a new partnership with the state that aims to bolster lagging student achievement and to remedy longstanding management and operational problems, including late running school buses that frustrate families and siphons away precious learning time.

In what turned into an embarrassing turn of events, Cassellius’ license expired one month after the School Committee approved a two-year extension to her contract, pushing its end date to 2024. The extension was based on a positive job review, but no one on the School Committee checked her licensing status. The committee, which is appointed by the mayor, took heat for extending the contract during the mayoral race.

Acting Mayor Kim Janey expressed confidence in Cassellius in a statement Friday.

“I am pleased, but not surprised, to learn that Superintendent Cassellius passed her exam and completed her licensure requirements,” Janey said. “I look forward to continuing the work with her, our teachers and staff, as well as our parents and partners, to deliver opportunity and excellence for all students across the district, building on our successful start of the school year.”

Cassellius is not the only top official in the school system with licensing problems. A Globe review last month found that more than 15 administrators, including several of Cassellius’ key lieutenants, had been working without the proper state licenses, a few of them for years. Some administrators scrambled to secure licenses before the Globe published its report.


Several additional administrators have secured their credentials since the Globe reported its story. Nathan Kuder, who has served as the system’s chief financial officer since August 2019, and longtime school Principal Benjamin Rockoff both received an emergency licenses on August 24.

Faye Karp, executive director of programs for English Learners, and Jason Sachs, the longtime executive director of early childhood education, obtained emergency licenses last week.

The school system has created a new position to oversee state licensing compliance and is seeking applicants.

James Vaznis can be reached at james.vaznis@globe.com. Follow him @globevaznis. Andrea Estes can be reached at andrea.estes@globe.com.