Somerville Superintendent Mary Skipper and Tommy Welch, a regional superintendent in Boston, were announced last week as the two finalists for the Boston Public School’s next superintendent.
The pair both have deep roots in the city school system and prevailed in a pool of 34 applicants.
Skipper and Welch were each publicly interviewed for about eight hours Thursday and Friday by panels of community members, educators, students, and the school committee. The Boston School Committee is scheduled to make its choice on Wednesday.
Here’s a deeper look at each of the finalists.
It has been decades since Boston chose a superintendent with local roots as deep as Mary Skipper’s: an Arlington kid who grew up bowling at Sacco’s in Somerville and picking up shifts at Johnnie’s Foodmaster; a Tufts classics major who taught Latin at Boston Latin Academy before working her way up in Boston Public Schools, from principal to district administrator overseeing three dozen high schools.
Some see Skipper, the superintendent in Somerville since 2015, as the antidote to what ails Boston’s schools, a vivid, homegrown contrast to the parade of outsider school chiefs who have tried to solve the district’s longstanding problems. On Wednesday night, they will learn if the School Committee agrees, as it chooses who will lead BPS through one of the tensest, most consequential chapters in its history.
Tommy Welch has run his 7,000-student region like a mini-district by building relationships through frequent visits, regularly monitoring student outcomes, and responding urgently to any problems that arise. His region — larger than most other school districts in Massachusetts — has weathered the pandemic better than the rest of the city’s schools, with more stable attendance rates and test scores.
Welch said he would bring his strong management to the top job.
In a district often paralyzed by dysfunction, Welch’s tenacity, coupled with his ability to form trusting relationships, are exactly what’s needed in the next Boston superintendent, people who’ve worked with him said.