Some local parents want to dismiss the newly appointed chief of staff to Boston’s next school superintendent before she ever reports to work, but both her future boss and the mayor are standing behind her.
Makeeba McCreary, an academic and philanthropic consultant who has worked for the Boston Foundation and Wheelock College, was part of a 10-member leadership team announced recently by incoming Superintendent Tommy Chang. Like Chang, the team is set to officially begin work July 1.
Within days of the announcement an online petition was calling for Chang to rescind McCreary’s appointment because she has done work for Families for Excellent Schools, a nonprofit group that supports the expansion of charter schools.
Some local parents who oppose charter expansion have previously raised concerns about Chang’s six years as a charter school principal.
Founded in New York in 2011, Families for Excellent Schools set up shop in Massachusetts last summer, prompting concerns among some opponents of charter school expansion in the state.
Those concerns extend to McCreary, said John Lerner, who created the petition. Lerner, father to a second-grade student at Mendell Elementary School in Roxbury, said he does not know McCreary but is alarmed by her affiliation with the procharter group.
“I don’t know how anyone in good conscience can work for that organization,” he said. “It’s purely guilt by association. And because of that association, I don’t feel that she has a right to work now for Boston Public Schools.”
By Friday evening, the petition had attracted more than 160 signatures on MoveOn.org, which does not verify signers’ names or locations. About three dozen identified Jamaica Plain as home, and 17 declared Roslindale. But others cited locales as distant as Austin and Altadena, Calif.
Karen Kast-McBride, an education activist and mother of two Boston Public Schools students from Roslindale, was the sixth to sign. She expressed concern that McCreary would be a fox in the School Department’s henhouse.
“If we have more people in our public school system that are tied into lobbying and fighting for charter schools, then we have a problem,” Kast-McBride said, “because that means they are going to be looking for ways to give more resources to those schools . . . than to our actual public schools, which need everything that we can give them right now.”
McCreary, executive director of the AbekaM Consulting Foundation, which she founded in 2009, said in an e-mail that she worked as a consultant to Families for Excellent Schools but was never an employee. She said that in her work for the group, her “sole focus has been to foster their positive engagement with Boston Public Schools and the city of Boston.”
McCreary will complete work for all her current clients before becoming Chang’s chief of staff, she said.
“While I am tremendously proud of the work that I have done in my practice, I am looking forward to the opportunity to directly impact the future of our city by ensuring that all of our kids have access to great public schools,” she said.
Jeremiah Kittredge, cofounder of Families for Excellent Schools, said in a statement that McCreary helped the organization “build collaborative relationships with key stakeholders in the city of Boston as we began our work of organizing parents.”
Chang also released a statement defending McCreary.
“Our job is to ensure every student in Boston has access to a great public school and I know Dr. McCreary is focused on that as well,” Chang said. “I have full confidence in her, and firmly stand by her appointment.”
Chang did not know McCreary before he came to Boston but was aware of her work, a spokesman for Chang said.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a phone interview that he is confident that the district’s students are the top priority for both Chang and McCreary.
Walsh, who cofounded a Dorchester charter school, said support for innovative approaches in education does not mean opposition to traditional public schools.
“I think this is an opportunity to work in sharing best practices,” he said. “There are lessons to be learned on both sides.”