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Outgoing Boston schools chief says ‘nothing’s pushing me out the door’

Outgoing Boston schools chief says ‘nothing’s pushing me out the door’
“I’m still here for five months and rolling up my sleeves," outgoing Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius told reporters Tuesday. (Photo by Lane Turner/Globe Staff)

Outgoing Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius told reporters Tuesday that “nothing’s pushing me out the door,” one day after her resignation effective in June was confirmed.

“I’m still here for five months and rolling up my sleeves, getting this work done each and every day and just excited about the work that we’ve been able to accomplish,” Cassellius said during a briefing outside Brighton High School, following a tour of the school with Mayor Michelle Wu.

Wu praised Cassellius for her service to the city and to BPS families.

“I am so grateful to Superintendent Cassellius for her steadfast leadership,” Wu said. “Her grace, her courage, her unwavering commitment to equity for our young people. She has truly led the district through what I believe are the three most challenging school years that we have ever seen in Boston. And we are all stronger and better off for her leadership.”

Cassellius said her successor will benefit from the work BPS has done during her tenure.


“We’ve really set up a strong foundation for the next superintendent to come in and take the mantle and carry it forward,” Cassellius said. “My next steps are to continue to do the work that I’m doing here in the Boston Public Schools each and every day to make sure that our students are getting everything that they need.”

Wu said a “huge part” of Cassellius’s legacy will be “opening up community engagement and bringing in our families to be firmly part of decision-making processes and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”

The officials were also asked about the frequent superintendent turnover in Boston in recent years.

Wu said “stability is a challenge” but pointed to “some incredible, incredible wins under the leadership of Superintendent Cassellius over the last few years. We are a city that continues to be surrounded by resources and a place where our educational system will be on track to be that leading school district connecting every one of our young people with opportunity.”


Still, the mayor conceded change is “always” difficult.

“We are going through a lot of change across the city right now,” Wu said. “We’re underway with our police commissioner search. We are continuing to build our cabinet in City Hall.”

School officials face a tough task right now, Wu continued.

“In some ways we are asking our superintendents and our school leaders and school communities to hold up the entire world right now,” Wu said. “It’s one, not fair to our school leaders and our teachers who are dealing with everything that we’re seeing out in the community. What happens in the classroom really reflects the challenges or supports that are available in our students’ homes, in their community, in our neighborhoods.”

City officials had initially confirmed Monday that Cassellius would depart from her post in June, leaving the city mere months to find a leader prepared to take control of a struggling school system still grappling with a pandemic that has upended two years of education.

Even before COVID-19 devastated the country’s education system, Boston public schools faced major challenges. In 2020, the state issued a scathing review of the system, reporting that about one-third of the district’s students attend schools ranked in the bottom 10 percent of the state. The risk of a state takeover looms.


“I knew when I took the job that I was a political appointee,” Cassellius said in a prior interview Monday. “Everyone should be able to pick their own team. ... and Mayor Wu should be able to pick her own team.”

The School Committee, which is appointed by the mayor and has the power to hire and fire a superintendent, had attempted to provide Cassellius with some protection last June as the city prepared to elect a new mayor by extending her contract to June 2024. It was originally set to expire this coming June and now that extension might cost Boston taxpayers a hefty severance package.

Her impending exit cuts short a goal Cassellius set for herself when she started in July 2019: She wanted to give students starting kindergarten that fall their high school diplomas in 13 years. Now, she will say goodbye to them as they leave second grade.

“My hope will be that we will be talking with the mayor,” said School Committee Chairperson Jeri Robinson during Tuesday’s briefing in Brighton. “We’ll be talking with the community. We’ll be looking at where we are now, and together we will decide how we move forward together. ... The School Committee will have its first meeting on Feb. 15 to begin this process.”

Separately Tuesday, Mayor Michelle Wu said there are no imminent plans to roll back the city’s mask mandate requiring face coverings in all public settings in Boston to guard against COVID-19 transmission.


“The mask mandate we are not yet there in terms of pulling,” Wu said. “We’ve had lots of conversations about other policies in place. For example, the city’s requirement for proof of vaccination to enter certain indoor venues [like dine-in restaurants, bars, gyms, and theaters]. And so, when it comes to that particular policy, the thresholds that the Boston Public Health Commission has set are ... 95 percent capacity of ICU beds, 200 daily COVID hospitalizations, and 5 percent community positivity rate. Once we are under all three of those thresholds, we intend to lift the business proof of vaccination requirement.”

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.

Travis Andersen can be reached at