The Boston School Committee Wednesday gave Superintendent Mary Skipper their nod of approval and a $7,500 raise, finalizing their first annual evaluation of the superintendent.
The committee rated the superintendent “effective,” the second highest of five possible ratings — enough to earn Skipper a 2.5 percent raise, retrospective to July 1, on her $300,000 annual salary.
The committee voted unanimously to approve Skipper’s evaluation at their first in-person meeting open to the public in more than three years. Members Brandon Cardet-Hernandez and Quoc Tran were absent. .
“You have my full commitment and my team’s full commitment to continuous improvement,” Skipper said. ”We will continue to get better and better and take your feedback, incorporate it, and make sure that next year at this time, we’ve been able to deliver on the things that you wanted to see.”
The committee was not without criticism for Skipper, particularly on her engagement of families and communities. Overall, they praised her efforts. Committee Chairwoman Jeri Robinson noted that the district’s problems — “a failing school system” — are longstanding and will take more than one person to fix.
“People want to blame or put that burden on the superintendent,” Robinson said. “It’s on all of us. Every single person who is any part of this city.”
Skipper, who spent her early career in Boston, returned to the district from Somerville at a critical juncture last September, with BPS navigating an agreement negotiated under a threat of a takeover by the state, which in a report last spring described the district’s “entrenched dysfunction” and “systemic disarray.”
Committee members said the district still has “a long way to go,” but expressed confidence in further progress. They made allowances in their evaluations for the timing of Skipper joining the district last year, after hiring and budget season.
“This was, in effect, an 11-month evaluation, not 12,” said Vice Chairman Michael O’Neill. “We see the difference already with the superintendent getting a running start for this school year.”
According to the summative assessment compiled by members Stephen Alkins and O’Neill, the board rated Skipper’s work as effective in each of four key areas — instructional leadership, management and operations, family and community engagement, and professional culture.
But there was significant variation among the members. In both management and engagement, member Brandon Cardet-Hernandez gave Skipper the second-lowest rating, “minimally effective,” while member Quoc Tran rated Skipper as “highly effective” in every area but engagement.
Ultimately, member Rafaela Polanco Garcia , said the most important evaluations will come from families.
“They will be the final judges,” Polanco Garcia said, speaking through an interpreter. “If we do not satisfy their requirements, if we do not convey what they need, the evaluation will not be that good.”
To open the meeting, Skipper updated the committee on last week’s return to school, which featured the district’s best first-day bus performance in years. The first two days of school had the highest morning on-time bus arrival percentage since at least 2016, with 61 percent of buses arriving at school on time on day one and 85 percent on day two. Days three and four trailed only the 2020-2021 school year, when fewer students were attending school in person.
The administration also updated the committee on the district’s capital planning, as a state deadline looms to present a comprehensive facilities plan by the end of the calendar year. That plan “will not be a full list of new builds, renovations, closures, or mergers,” according to the presentation, but will instead offer a rubric proposal for such new buildings and closures in future years.
In addition to the final evaluation, the committee also approved a new admission policy for Madison Park Vocational Technical High School. Massachusetts requires all vocational schools to have admissions policies. The School Committee had raised concerns that the policy first presented to them in May was too high of a barrier to entry. Now, the application has been slimmed down to just a statement of interest.
While Wednesday’s meeting still offered a Zoom webinar, the in-person meeting wasthe first opened to the public since a March 10, 2020, budget hearing, the day the pandemic state of emergency began in Massachusetts.
The committee met in person for superintendent candidate interviews in June 2022, but those were not open to the public.
Meanwhile, Boston City Council has been meeting in person since Feb. 2022, and many other municipal boards and school committees around the state have long since resumed meeting in-person, albeit with now-routine hybrid set-ups.
But state leaders have repeatedly extended the temporary change to state open meetings law allowing remote meetings. Most recently, Governor Maura Healey signed a budget bill that extended the allowance until March 2025, five years after it was first introduced by executive order in the depths of the COVID-19 emergency.