Don’t Shut Us Out: Students Demand a Say in Who Leads Boston Public Schools - SFER

Don’t Shut Us Out: Students Demand a Say in Who Leads Boston Public Schools

Recently, the district held a public hearing on what was supposed to be an opportunity for community input on the next Boston Public Schools (BPS) board superintendent, but it felt more like a dog and pony show than a genuine effort to engage their constituents.

After BPS Board Superintendent, Tommy Chang, suddenly resigned for allegedly allowing the information of an undocumented student to be shared with immigration officials, the Mayor and the BPS board moved quickly to appoint an interim superintendent, Laura Perille. Before the public hearing we were given the impression that the district wanted input from the community about the qualities we’d like to see in the next superintendent. Instead, days before, a backroom nomination deal was made and they used the public hearing to confirm their *one* nominee.

I understand that it’s totally within the power of the Mayor to appoint a superintendent but this time students, like myself, are demanding to be a part of the selection process. Just as students have made their voices heard on gun safety and keeping immigrant families together, they also deserve to be heard when it comes to who runs their schools.

Chang was appointed with little public input or transparency. In his time at BPS, we’ve seen a decline in students’ on-time graduation, a child who was taken from his family by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and poor communication with communities.

The Superintendent's job was to first and foremost keep children safe, as well provide transparency in communication with families and address the opportunity gaps that historically marginalized communities have been facing. Instead, the district — under the watch of Chang — failed students and their families in nearly all of their essential duties.

This time around, to prevent this sort of failing from happening again as officials consider a permanent replacement, students deserve to play a role in selecting his replacement. As the process unfolds, we expect to be heard, but for starters, here are a few top priorities.

First, schools — whether directly or indirectly — should not be in the business of informing ICE about the immigration status of their students. No child, regardless of their immigration status, should live in fear of being forcefully separated from their family simply for showing up to school.

Secondly, I along with other students, repeatedly tried to meet with Superintendent Chang for over three months to discuss the early literacy gap between Black and Latinx children in BPS and their white peers, but he wasn’t responsive. At best, maybe Chang didn’t meet with us because of the disorganization and mismanagement at the highest level; at worst, maybe equity and student involvement wasn’t a priority for him. Regardless, this situation in and of itself tells students that he wasn’t communicating effectively with the communities he claimed to serve. This failure cannot happen again.

Students will not stand for another lackluster leader and we intend to make sure superintendent appointments without public input will never happen again in our city.

BPS is one of the most diverse school districts in the nation and we demand that the next superintendent comes from, and communicates effectively with, the communities she or he will serve. We demand that the next superintendent is committed to student safety and that means stating unequivocally that no BPS students’ immigration status will ever be shared with immigration officials again. Finally, we demand that the next superintendent has a proven track record of success with closing the opportunity gap, especially for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.

Students and their parents, community leaders, and activists are not going anywhere. We are watching and we refuse to be shut out of the superintendent selection process this time.

If you agree with our demands and want to #ProtectOurStudents sign below to join us in the search for the next BPS board superintendent.