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L.A. school official Chang touts track record

 School superintendent candidate Tommy Chang attended a forum at English High School in Jamaica Plain Tuesday.
School superintendent candidate Tommy Chang attended a forum at English High School in Jamaica Plain Tuesday.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Los Angeles school administrator Tommy Chang, who is vying to lead Boston’s public schools, fielded a wide range of questions and touted his track record Tuesday at a series of community events. Chang was the second of four candidates for school superintendent to meet with community leaders and School Committee members. He made the following remarks at a morning forum in downtown Boston.

On improving struggling schools:

“You need an intense focus on instruction. If you don’t change what’s going on in the classroom, things aren’t going to change.”

On narrowing achievement gaps:

Chang quoted Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” that the country was moving “at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter.”

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“For many of our youth, that cup of coffee is their education. There is no silver bullet here. But we have to be relentless.”

On special education:

“We live in an inclusive world, so why are students being segregated [by classroom]? Every single school should serve every single kid.”

On Common Core standards and standardized testing:

“There is great opportunity with Common Core, but we need to be very careful.”

On diversity in hiring:

Chang said improving education would encourage more graduates to eventually return to teach. “People come back to the community to serve when they get a great education there.”

The other finalists are Dana Bedden, superintendent in Richmond; Pedro Martinez, a former superintendent working on school overhaul in Nevada; and Guadalupe Guerrero, a deputy superintendent in San Francisco.

Boston’s School Committee is expected to choose the new superintendent March 3.

Peter Schworm

More on Tommy Chang:

Professional: As instructional superintendent for the Los Angeles school district’s Intensive Support & Innovation Center, he oversees more than 130 schools and some 95,000 students. More than 80 percent are Hispanic, and 95 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. A former teacher and principal, he previously served as special assistant to the superintendent of the Los Angeles public schools.

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Education: Holds a doctoral degree in educational leadership from Loyola Marymount University, a master’s degree from UCLA, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

Fun facts: As a teacher at Compton High School, he developed the AP biology curriculum and raised more than $10,000 to support the program. He also coached the girls’ softball team.


Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.