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Boston to get its first education chief

Will act as liaison to mayor’s office

Mayor Martin J. Walsh is expected to announce Wednesday the appointment of Turahn Dorsey as Boston’s first “chief of education,” a new Cabinet-level official who will cultivate relationships with all schools in Boston.

By all schools, Walsh said he means more than the 128 public schools. Dorsey will collaborate with charter schools, parochial schools, private schools, and Boston’s colleges and universities — although he will not have direct power over those institutions.

In an interview Tuesday, Walsh described the position as “probably the first of its kind in the nation.”

“If we want to change the way we deliver education in Boston, we need to shake things up,” Walsh said Tuesday as he sat with Dorsey in City Hall. “We shake things up by thinking outside the box.”


Dorsey has never taught in a classroom, but has a background in consulting and nonprofits with an education focus. He is currently an official at the Barr Foundation and runs a program that develops school-community partnerships.

Dorsey will not, Walsh said, oversee Boston’s superintendent of schools, who will remain in charge of curriculum, discipline, and other policies at the city’s public schools. Dorsey is expected to have a role in the selection of a new superintendent, Walsh said.

The impetus for the position came when advocates lobbied Walsh to get involved in a fight on Beacon Hill over increasing the number of charter schools. They needed a contact at City Hall, Walsh said, because he wants all constituencies to be able to voice concerns.

Dorsey, 43, grew up in Detroit and came to Massachusetts to attend the Concord Academy. After earning a degree in economics at the University of Michigan, he worked for 13 years at Abt Associates Inc. in Cambridge before moving to the Barr Foundation.

Dorsey lives a few blocks from Walsh in Savin Hill. He is married to Mariama White-Hammond, executive director of Project HIP-HOP, a youth social justice and arts organization. Dorsey does not have children, but has served on several school committees in Boston.


As chief of education, Dorsey said part of his job will be to identify “the four or five big things that we’re trying to revolutionize in education.”

“My role is to build the consensus around what those four or five things are going to be,” Dorsey said, “and hopefully play the chief organizer.”

Dorsey will start Sept. 29 and will be paid $135,000. He will take a position vacated by George S. Perry Jr., Walsh’s former education adviser who resigned in May. Dorsey will work out of City Hall and will have a staff of two to four.

Andrew Ryan can be reached at