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Mayor to tap search committee for school superintendent

Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the Boston School Committee are expected to announce Thursday the creation of a 12-member search committee for a new school superintendent, the first significant step toward finding a new leader in nearly 10 months.

The search committee will be working under a tight deadline with a goal of having a new superintendent in place by September, city and school officials said.

Michael O’Neill, the School Committee chairman, acknowledged in an interview that it was an ambitious goal, and he said that the School Committee would adjust the timeline if members are not pleased with the pool of candidates.


“It’s important for us to get it right,” O’Neill said.

The search panel will be led by Hardin Coleman, a School Committee member and dean of Boston University’s School of Education, and Robert Gallery, president of Bank of America Massachusetts and a board member of the Boston Plan for Excellence, an education nonprofit.

Kate Norton, a Walsh spokeswoman, said the search committee is expected to name about three finalists in the months ahead.

In a sharp departure from more recent superintendent searches, the School Committee plans to publicly identify the finalists and invite them to interview for the position in a public meeting, a requirement under the state’s Open Meeting Law.

During previous searches — a failed one in 2006 and then another in 2007 — the School Committee expressed apprehension about publicly identifying finalists.

The concern: some desirable candidates might not apply because their current employer would find out and it could damage their working relationship if they didn’t get the Boston post.

“If that scares them away, so be it,” O’Neill said.

The search to find a replacement for Carol R. Johnson, who announced her retirement last April and left in August, was left in limbo for most of last year as the city elected its first new mayor in 20 years.


Although the School Committee technically hires the superintendent, the mayor carries considerable sway in the decision.

That’s because he appoints the School Committee and the superintendent becomes a member of his Cabinet.

Given that dynamic, many recruitment specialists have said the most desirable candidates would have been reluctant to give Boston serious consideration until a new mayor was elected.

With the new mayor now in place, candidates would know whether their educational philosophies, visions, and leadership style would mesh.

The School Committee, however, pushed forward with one initial step in the search, drafting a proposed strategic vision for the district that a new superintendent would execute.

The committee is now gathering public opinion on that vision.

The Boston superintendency is considered a plum assignment.

The city has one of the higher-performing large urban districts in the country and has immense resources — a plethora of universities and nonprofits eager to partner on initiatives.

The search committee will work with a consulting firm and will begin holding public hearings soon to find out what characteristics and qualities parents, students, and teachers want in a new superintendent.

The search panel will then create a job description that would be approved by the School Committee. That in turn would allow the consultant to find suitable candidates and initially vet them. The search panel, after further scrutiny, would recommend finalists to the School Committee.

Since last summer, John McDonough, the School Department’s chief financial officer, has served as interim superintendent.


The other search committee members are O’Neill; Michael Contompasis, retired Boston schools superintendent; Pam Eddinger, president of Bunker Hill Community College; Bill Henderson, a retired public school principal; Laura Perille, chief executive and president of EdVestors and a Boston public school parent; Jeri Robinson, vice president for early childhood initiatives at the Boston Children’s Museum and co-leader of Walsh’s education transition team; Regina Robinson, a public school parent and a member of the school district’s SpedPac; Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union; Dr. Dania Vazquez, principal of Margarita Muniz Academy; and Andrew Vega, an eighth-grade teacher at Orchard Gardens K-8.

James Vaznis can be reached at jvaznis@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globevaznis.