The head of Boston Latin School, Rachel Skerritt, said on Friday that she would step down at the end of the school year, ending a five-year run in which she guided the nation’s oldest public school through pandemic disruptions and controversy over the admissions process.
“I make this announcement with a heavy heart, but one full of hope about what lies ahead,” Skerritt wrote in a letter to families that was obtained by the Globe. “The responsibility of leading and stewarding this community full of beautiful people with vibrant minds and tremendous promise has been an enormous honor.”
Skerritt made history in 2017 when she took the job, becoming the first person of color to lead what is considered the crown jewel of the city’s school system. It also marked a homecoming for Skerritt, a BLS alum who previously worked as a teacher there before moving up to the Boston Public Schools central office, and eventually landing a district leadership role in Washington, D.C.
“Ms. Skerritt’s leadership has been stellar in every regard and shines even more brightly considering the context of the pandemic and related upheaval,” Peter Kelly, president of the Boston Latin School Association, said in a statement.
“She will be greatly missed by everyone in the BLS family.”
Skerritt steered BLS through turbulent times as the school grappled with fallout from allegations of racial discrimination that several students raised more than a year before Skerritt’s hiring, and more recently faced myriad challenges during the pandemic.
“The pandemic has asked questions of all of us in different ways,” she wrote. “We have endured a two-year stretch of heightened awareness of the importance of physical and emotional well-being and a greater appreciation for the foundation that community and family provide as we weather great challenges.
“Like most of you, I have been trying to do my best each day while also pondering the direction of my own life, keeping my responsibility to my family and to this school community at the forefront of my thinking,” Skerritt continued.
Skerritt, who declined to comment, didn’t disclose her next career step. The Boston Public Schools communication department didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Skerritt’s departure comes as a number of school leaders are stepping down amid the pandemic, including Superintendent Brenda Cassellius.
Cassellius, who previously served as an education commissioner for nearly a decade in Minnesota, said early last month that she will step down at the end of the school year, following a turbulent tenure marked by major disruptions in learning caused by the pandemic as well as a number of controversies.
During the pandemic, educators have faced multiple challenges, including the difficult transition to online learning and staffing shortages after the return to school buildings. BLS also saw an outbreak of the virus in December, amid the surge of infections caused by the Omicron variant.
At the same time, controversy has continued to surround the admissions process for BLS and the city’s other two exam schools, Boston Latin Academy and the O’Bryant School of Math and Science.
Last year, a group of white and Asian families unsuccessfully sued Boston Public Schools in federal district court over a one-year temporary admission plan based on student ZIP codes. An appeal is pending.
A new admission policy approved by the School Committee last summer is expected to dramatically increase the diversity of students admitted into the exam schools.
Skerritt said she would work toward a smooth transition for a new leader.
Lisa Green, a former co-chair of the BLS parent council and a member of the school’s equity team, said she felt lucky to have worked with Skerritt since she came back as head of BLS.
“Ms. Skerritt returned to BLS at a time of reckoning and uncertainty,” Green said. “She’s proved time and again that she’s been the right leader for BLS at this pivotal time.”
On Twitter, former city councilor Matt O’Malley said, “Nearly 30 years ago, I first met Rachel Skerritt as a fellow student at Boston Latin. Since then, I have been continuously impressed with her passion, drive, & commitment to educational excellence for all.”
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