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Last-minute lobbying for school superintendent post

Dr. Dana Bedden is superinten-dent of schools in Richmond, Va.
Dr. Dana Bedden is superinten-dent of schools in Richmond, Va.Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

In a last-minute dash to influence the selection of a new school superintendent in Boston, parents, community activists, and business leaders are aggressively lobbying Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the School Committee to support their choices for the job.

The outpouring of phone calls, e-mails, and endorsements comes as the School Committee is expected to decide Tuesday night which of the four finalists should be offered the position. As of Monday, many of those who turned out for last week's public interview of the candidates said the vote appears to be too close to call.

"I can't predict what the School Committee might do, but it's too important not to get it right," said Kim Janey, who served on one of the interview panels last week and is senior project director at Massachusetts Advocates for Children, a Boston nonprofit.

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Walsh said Monday afternoon that he was still deciding which candidate he preferred. The superintendent, who is hired by the mayoral appointed School Committee, also serves on the mayor's Cabinet.

"I'm still checking on backgrounds," Walsh said. "I'm very happy with the pool of candidates we have. They all have their strengths." But he added, "There are a couple in particular who have a lot of strengths."

Boston superintendent candidate Tommy Chang.
Boston superintendent candidate Tommy Chang.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The four finalists, revealed nearly two weeks ago, are Dana Bedden, superintendent of schools in Richmond; Tommy Chang, instructional area superintendent at the Intensive Support and Innovation Center at the Los Angeles Unified School District; Guadalupe Guerrero, deputy superintendent for instruction, innovation, and social justice for the San Francisco Unified School District; and Pedro Martinez, a superintendent in residence for the state of Nevada.

The chosen candidate is expected to start the job by July 1, replacing interim Superintendent John McDonough, who has been serving in the top spot since Carol R. Johnson retired in August 2013.

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The Greater Boston Latino Network — comprising 11 Latino advocacy organizations — has endorsed Martinez, sending out e-mail blasts over the weekend to backers encouraging them to register their support with Walsh and the School Committee.

Pedro Martinez is a superintendent in residence for the state of Nevada.
Pedro Martinez is a superintendent in residence for the state of Nevada.Sean Proctor/Globe Staff

On Monday, the group followed up with a press release saying Boston could benefit from an outspoken leader, such as Martinez, who has a strong vision on how to bolster student achievement and turn around low-achieving schools. Latinos make up 40 percent of the school system, making them the largest student group. A vote for Martinez, or for Guerrero, would mark the first time a Latino would serve as Boston's superintendent.

"We need someone who won't be afraid to ask the tough questions," said Alexandra Oliver-Davila, who served on one of the interview panels last week and is executive director of Sociadad Latina, which is part of the Greater Boston Latino Network.

Philanthropic organizations appear to be breaking for Chang, while many parents and rank-and-file teachers appear to be gravitating toward Bedden.

The Boston Student Advisory Council also has backed a candidate and plans to unveil its choice Tuesday night.

Michael O'Neill, the School Committee chairman, said he expected that the board would make a decision by the end of Tuesday evening's meeting and that members have been carefully reading e-mails and surveys and fielding phone calls from the public on the choices.

"All School Committee members have received a tremendous amount of feedback," O'Neill said. "People are very engaged in the process. I'm really heartened by it."

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Guadalupe Guerrero is a deputy superinten-dent in the San Francisco Unified School District.
Guadalupe Guerrero is a deputy superinten-dent in the San Francisco Unified School District.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Related coverage:

• Opinion: Boston Public Schools needs a superintendent who is a change agent

Tommy Chang, a reformer with commitment to students

Pedro Martinez leads with compassion, conviction

Dana Bedden has responsive, transparent style

Guadalupe Guerrero is on a mission to turn things around


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