New Superintendent Draws Large Crowd at St. Stephen’s Forum

New Supt. of Schools Brenda Cassellius was greeted in the South End by a standing-room-only crowd at St. Stephens Youth Programs on Shawmut Avenue Tuesday evening.

The superintendent was hosted by St. Stephens and the Boston Education Justice Alliance, and it was the first trip to the South End as part of her 100-day tour announced two weeks ago.

“I’m going on a 100-day tour,” she told the bi-lingual crowd. “It’s not about visiting for academic structures, but rather to get a sense of the place and the resources within the neighborhoods of Boston. I’m new to Boston and thank all of you for the warm welcome. When I talk about the Condon, the Mattahunt, the Excel School or the Blackstone School, I don’t know where they’re at in Boston. It is meant to go out to these places and understand their place and have a sense of their history in the community.”

As part of the tour, she is visiting all of the schools, and holding several community meetings, while also doing meet and greets with partnering organizations like St. Stephens.

She said that so far, the tour has brought about some trends. One of them is the desire by parents and school communities to see a more diverse workforce in the schools.

“That’s been a topic or a value at about every community I’ve visited,” she said.

A second trend, she said, was to engage parents in a more meaningful and authentic way.

All of it, she said would go towards creating a path forward.

“I’ve had people ask me what my plan is,” she said. “I want everyone to know I don’t have a plan yet. I hope to create that plan with you in the next two or three months.”

Parents had questions about better preparing students for exam school tests, with some parents saying they knew very little about exam schools until it was too late.

Most everyone in the room was concerned about inequity across the schools, and that was a major concern for the many parents from the Blackstone who were in attendance.

“We want to see each school be able to have the same resources,” said Stephanie Shapiro Brookson of the South End. “Many schools don’t have the resources and some have the parents fundraise. That is extremely inequitable. You don’t want a school in one place that raises $400,000 and then a school nearby that cannot afford a ball for the PE class.”

Cassellius said she does have plans to address inequity in the next budget cycle, and even in the current cycle. She said she plans to “hold back” certain resources that would ensure equity across he district. This year, she said they plan to shift some things in the budget to address staffing issues. It will be a transparent process, she said.

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