Boston’s plan to hire a new public schools superintendent by the end of June is aggressive but not unrealistic, a newly hired consultant told the search committee Tuesday as he proposed a brisk two-month timeline for reviewing applicants and choosing a new leader.
James Guerra, president and CEO of JG Consulting, said he plans to post the position nationally and “open the portal” to online applicants by Friday. He recommended allowing three or four weeks for candidates to respond before an initial committee review of applications in mid-May, followed by two rounds of interviews during the weeks of June 6 and June 13.
“We have enough time without compromising the integrity of our work,” he said.
Superintendent Brenda Cassellius announced in February that she would step down at the end of the school year, a move that was described as a “mutual decision” with new Mayor Michelle Wu but was never fully explained to the public. Since then, a search committee led by Bunker Hill Community College president Pam Eddinger and School Committee member Lorena Lopera has solicited input from system stakeholders, drafted a job description, and selected the consulting firm, based in Austin, Texas, from seven bidders to recruit and screen candidates at a cost of $75,000.
With leaders intent on minimizing lag time and skipping an interim chief, the speedy timetable has raised concerns it could add pressure to hire a leader who may not be the best fit. The city’s last national search for a new superintendent lasted a year.
“I want to make sure we have ample time to process information and reflect, and that we not feel rushed to pick someone,” search committee member Roxi Harvey, the chair of the Boston Special Education Parent Advisory Council, said at Tuesday’s meeting. “I understand the goal is June 30, but I don’t want to take shortcuts to reach for an arbitrary date.”
JG Consulting was the runner-up in 2018 when the city chose a firm to help find its last superintendent; that search committee instead opted for a consultant with closer local ties and a longer track record. Guerra said Tuesday that his team has conducted 25 superintendent searches in the past seven years; 72 percent of candidates hired were people of color and 45 percent were women. More than 90 percent are still in their positions at a time when the average tenure for superintendents nationwide is less than three years, he said. (Cassellius is completing her third year.)
The firm has been involved in two other recent searches for school administrators in the city, he said: for a principal at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School after years of instability, and an assistant superintendent to lead the district’s Office of English Learners. Advertised in August 2020, that job was filled by Silvia Romero-Johnson in November 2020; she left the district less than one year later.