May 2019: Boston School Committee announces selection of Brenda Cassellius, former Minnesota education commissioner, as their choice for superintendent after a year-long search, choosing her over two other finalists to replace interim leader Laura Perille.
July 2019: Cassellius starts work and pledges to begin by visiting every Boston school and meeting with hundreds of parents, students, teachers, and community members, asking them what they would do if they were in charge.
January 2020: The new superintendent lays out her five-year strategic plan for Boston schools, pledging to boost both equity and rigor, and successfully lobbies for a $100 million budget increase to help make it happen.
March 2020: A scathing 300-page state audit details longstanding deficiencies in BPS and the lack of a “clear, coherent, district-wide strategy for supporting low-performing schools.” A few days later, the COVID-19 pandemic shuts down schools across the state.
July 2020: Top administrators at the city’s high schools call on the School Committee to halt Cassellius’ sweeping plan for high school redesign, saying it ignores years of study about the schools’ complexities.
August 2020: The School Committee gives Cassellius solid marks in her first performance review, judging her “effective” or “proficient” and praising her for addressing systemic racism, working to avert a state takeover, and leading schools through the pandemic.
August 2020: Cassellius delays announcing Boston’s plans for school reopening, frustrating families as they wait anxiously for clarity. With teachers raising safety concerns, all schools eventually open in remote mode, with plans to return students to classrooms in phases.
December 2020: Members of the Boston Teachers Union overwhelmingly vote no confidence in Cassellius, the first such vote in decades, citing her handling of the pandemic, after weeks of ratcheting tensions over deficiencies and inequities in COVID-19 precautions at aging school buildings.
February 2021: Unveiling the district’s annual budget proposal, Cassellius highlights plans to add social workers and family liaisons in schools and new summer programs to help students recover from pandemic learning losses.
March 2021: Cassellius launches an investigation of student allegations that a youth nonprofit, a longtime BPS partner, emotionally manipulated them and engaged in unlicensed counseling.
May: The School Committee approves the superintendent’s proposal to toughen graduation requirements by adopting the MassCore standards.
June: The School Committee votes 4-1 to extend Cassellius’ contract another two years, until 2024, despite concerns from some mayoral candidates that the next mayor should have a say in district leadership.
June: An internal poll finds low morale inside Cassellius’ administration, with 52 percent of employees disengaged from their work. The superintendent pledges to improve workplace culture.
July: Cassellius plays a key role in pushing through a historic update to admissions practices at elite exam schools, boosting access for disadvantaged students and rejecting last-minute political meddling.
August: The Globe reports that the superintendent is not licensed to run the district because she never took the state certification exam. Cassellius responds that she has been too busy running the schools in a pandemic to do so, but that she will fulfill the requirement soon. The following month, Cassellius secures a license after passing the state’s exam.
September: Still plagued by tardy buses a month into the new school year, Cassellius hires an outside consultant to probe a chronic problem that has long persisted in the district.
September: Asked to grade the superintendent’s performance during the last mayoral debate before the preliminary election, candidate Michelle Wu gives Cassellius a ‘C’ while acknowledging the daunting challenges posed by the pandemic.
February: The superintendent presents a new $1.3 billion annual budget plan that would increase per-pupil spending by 9 percent, to $27,100.
February: Mayor Michelle Wu announces “a mutual decision” for Cassellius to step down from her position in June.