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Cambridge names Weymouth superintendent to be its new head of schools

The Cambridge School Committee has picked Weymouth's superintendent of schools, Kenneth Salim, to head its school system starting in July 2016.

Weymouth's school superintendent, Kenneth Salim, has been named Cambridge’s next superintendent of schools.Ken Salim

On a 6-1 vote, Salim edged out former Holyoke school superintendent Sergio Paez to replace Jeffrey Young, who announced in December 2014 that he planned to leave Cambridge at the end of the 2015-2016 school year. Young has been superintendent since 2009.

A national search by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates yielded a final pool of 42 applicants. Three finalists – Salim, Paez, and Framingham Superintendent Stacy Scott – interviewed publicly for the job in mid-October, and the School Committee chose Salim in a special meeting on Oct. 27.


Salim said in an interview Wednesday he wasn't looking for a new job, but "Cambridge was a one-of-a-kind opportunity, not just in Massachusetts, but nationally." He said he was excited to continue to tap into the resources of Cambridge's heady mix of universities, biotech and other industries, and numerous community groups invested in public education.

He said he's also eager to take on "the civil rights issue of our time -- making sure that all students have access to an excellent education -- and [closing] the opportunity and achievement gap" between students.

"At my core is a belief in the power of learning," he wrote in his statement of interest to the Cambridge district.

Cambridge Mayor David Maher, who chairs the School Committee, said after the vote that Salim was "a talented, thoughtful leader who can work with our parents, teachers, and students to get the best of all that they have to offer. We all know that a superintendent's job is never easy, but our community expects that Dr. Salim can competently face the challenge given his uncompromising vision for excellence."


The Cambridge public schools have about 6,800 students, and about 60 percent are minorities. For almost a third of Cambridge's students, English is not their first language.

The district has more than 600 teachers in 11 pre-K through fifth grade elementary schools, one pre-K through eighth grade school, four upper schools for grades six through eight, and the comprehensive Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School – as well as a high school extension program and the Rindge School of Technical Arts.

Weymouth has about half the population of Cambridge but about the same number of public school students, about 80 percent of whom are white, and about 400 teachers in 12 schools.

The first in his Indonesian immigrant family to graduate from college, Salim majored in biology at Brown University and taught at Brighton High School and at Boston College's Lynch School of Education before earning a master's and doctorate in education from Harvard.

He worked as an administrator in the Boston public schools before becoming Weymouth's superintendent in 2012, the first person hired for the job from outside the district since the 1960s. His annual salary is about $164,000.

Salim also served as president of Learning Forward, an international association for teachers' professional development, and was a member of the Professional Development Brain Trust convened by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Young, who came to Cambridge from Newton, said while he was leaving the superintendency, he wasn't retiring and was considering new options.


"I'm not quite ready for the golf course," he said Wednesday. "First, my golf isn't good enough and, secondly, I still have a lot of energy and passion for the issues I've been working on for quite a few years."

Johanna Seltz can be reached at