Boston schools superintendent gets high marks in performance review despite pandemic challenges

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius earned high marks from her school committee colleagues in this year’s performance review despite a bumpy period of pandemic challenges and tumultuous change.

“It is often said that our greatest growth is borne out of our times of greatest challenge. That has certainly been true of my past year as the Superintendent of Boston Public Schools, a year I count as one of the most challenging in my thirty-plus year career as an educator,” Cassellius wrote in her performance review memo, discussed at Wednesday night’s school committee meeting.

Overall, Cassellius was ranked “effective” in her duties including in areas such as productivity, commitment to academic excellence and fiscal responsibility. She earned “highly effective,” the highest rank, in her focus on equity.

Cassellius earned a “developing” rank in decision-making, with members writing, “Taking time to build consensus around decisions has been challenged by the pandemic and the Superintendent’s urgency for improvement. Not every decision has been as clearly understood as would allow a rating of highly effective.”

All school committee members evaluate the superintendent individually, which factors into a composite summary.

The individual reviews were a little light this year with two school committee members, Lorna Rivera and former chair Alexandra Oliver-Davila, having recently resigned.

Not all members gave Cassellius a shining star. The committee’s newest member, Ernani DeAraujo, said Cassellius was “minimally effective” in the area of productivity, organizing and planning.

DeAraujo cited managerial and operational issues, saying if they are not resolved, “the School Committee and Mayor should hire a city manager to run the operational aspects of BPS and the Superintendent will serve under the manager as the strategic vision officer, which directly suits her greatest strengths.”

This was Cassellius’s second performance review on the job. Last year she also received high marks.

Wednesday’s meeting was the first since Rivera and Oliver-Davila stepped down following the release of disparaging text messages. School committee members elected Jeri Robinson to replace Oliver-Davila as chair. Robinson has served on the committee since 2014.

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