May 1, 2019

Letter to Boston Superintendent-Designate Brenda Cassellius

Dear Superintendent-Designate Cassellius,

Congratulations on your selection as the next Superintendent of Boston Public Schools!

I am excited to introduce you to Educators for Excellence Boston (E4E-Boston). My name is Brandy Fluker-Oakley, and I serve as Executive Director for E4E-Boston. We are a teacher-led organization that seeks to elevate educator voices in policymaking conversations. On behalf of our over 850 educator members, we welcome you to Boston.

Last fall, we surveyed our members about the skills and experiences they wanted a new Superintendent to possess. They overwhelmingly selected previous classroom experience as one of the top qualities they hoped would be considered. We are thrilled that you began your career as a paraprofessional and classroom teacher. I am sure you will draw upon this experience and the unique insight it provided into classroom-level challenges, and how important it is to support teachers and paraprofessionals in their critical work.

E4E-Boston educators also selected transparency and community engagement as two qualities that they hoped the new Superintendent would embrace. Going forward, we hope that you will take time to include the community in your decision and communicate regularly in order to demystify the work of central office, build trust, and create pathways for interaction.

One of those teachers, Kwame Sarfo-Mensah, a middle school math teacher at Lee Elementary, educational consultant, and member of E4E-Boston, wanted to share that he hopes you will be a “proponent of culturally responsive teaching practices. Given the fact that our Black and Latinx students have historically been the lowest performing groups, it is important to have a leader who can relate to them on a personal level and empower teachers to use the cultural diversity of the students as the vehicle to create academically rigorous tasks that will increase student engagement and achievement.”

You will likely encounter our members at future School Committee meetings, advocating passionately for one of our two main issue campaigns: Schools That Heal and Thriving, Not Just Surviving.

Schools That Heal seeks to create trauma-informed schools with equitable access to mental health supports by establishing guidance counselor-, school psychologist- , and social worker-to-student ratios. It is crucial that students have access to mental health professionals in order to prevent trauma they have experienced from reaching crisis levels. Expert-recommended ratios help ensure that schools have the staff they need to support student mental health.

Thriving, Not Just Surviving focuses on improving school culture and disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline by implementing restorative practices in all Boston Public Schools (BPS). Restorative practices have the potential to address the root causes of student misbehavior, setting them on a better path in the long term and improving student outcomes across all BPS schools.

As a proud graduate of BPS, I have a special interest in the district’s leadership. I am hopeful that your administration will be committed to fostering equity across our schools and ensuring that every student has access to a quality education.

I hope we can find a time for you to sit down with our educators in the coming months so they can share their invaluable, on-the-ground perspective and the education policy issues important to them. We wish you luck as you prepare to take on your new role, and look forward to a collaborative relationship.

Sincerely,
Brandy Fluker-Oakley
Executive Director, Educators for Excellence Boston