What $1.4 million could have brought to BPS if it hadn’t been for the constant turnover of superintendents
The nearly $1.5 million the city has spent over the past four years on principal turnover would have been better spent on guidance counsellors, libraries, improving school facilities and a myriad of other things, parents and education advocates said Saturday.
An analysis of the Herald’s payroll found that severance pay, research firm fees and superintendent salaries cost taxpayers $1.4 million in such a short time.
“I really think that money could have been better spent on reading specialists, nurses, librarians,” said Suleika Soto, a Boston Public Schools parent. “I also think we could have had these things if we had an elected school committee, rather than a committee appointed by the mayor.”
Weeks after taking office in November, Mayor Michelle Wu announced that she and Superintendent of Schools Brenda Cassellius had reached a “mutual agreement” that she would step down on June 30. The announcement came just months after the school board extended Cassellius’ contract by two. years.
Now, taxpayers will have to spend $314,000 on severance pay, after paying him $306,415 for calendar year 2021.
A search firm, One-Fourth Consulting/JG Consulting of Austin, Texas, is charging Boston $75,000 to help recruit its replacement, someone Wu said she wanted to “start.”
A city spokesperson said the search for a new superintendent had “completed every step of the timeline” established by the search committee.
But Edith Bazille, a teacher and administrator at the BPS for 32 years, said she didn’t have much confidence in the research process because “they try to do it quickly rather than do it right”.
Search committee co-chair Pam Eddinger and school committee member Brandon Cardet-Hernandez said an acting superintendent would likely be needed.
The last acting superintendent – Laura Perille – earned $129,807 in 2019 and $119,230 in 2018, records show.
She filled in after Tommy Chang was fired in 2018 after taking $149,117 in salary that year and $301,465 in contract buyout, according to city payroll records. This decision was made by former mayor Martin Walsh, now US Secretary of Labor.
Spending all those taxpayer dollars on a new superintendent each time a new mayor takes office “is certainly significant and probably a negligent use of resources and time,” said Vernee Wilkinson, director of SchoolFacts Boston’s Family Advisory Council.
“Ultimately, this cost is paid by the students, in many cases the most vulnerable – black and brown students, students with disabilities, English language learners, students experiencing poverty or homelessness” , said Wilkinson.
“State and city leaders have bad credit with Boston families,” she said. “There’s a lot of confidence to be gained.”