Boston Mayor Names Dorsey First ‘Chief of Education’

Mayor Martin Walsh has announced Turahn Dorsey as Boston’s first “chief of education.”

The position, which Walsh referred to as “probably the first of its kind in the nation,” will have Dorsey collaborating and building relationships with more than 128 public schools, as well as charter schools, parochial schools, and private schools along with Boston’s universities and colleges.

“If we want to change the way we deliver education in Boston, we need to shake things up,” Walsh said Tuesday as he sat with Dorsey in City Hall. “We shake things up by thinking outside the box.”

Boston’s superintendent of schools will remain in charge of day-to-day operations like curriculum, discipline and other policies at the school level.  When it comes time to select a new superintendent, Dorsey will have a say.

While Dorsey has never taught in a school, he does hold a background in consulting and nonprofits with a focus on education.  Previous endeavors include running a program developing relationships between school and community, as well as serving as evaluation director at the Barr Foundation.

As chief of education, Dorsey said part of his job will be to identify “the four or five big things that we’re trying to revolutionize in education.  My role is to build the consensus around what those four or five things are going to be,” Dorsey said, “and hopefully play the chief organizer.”

Mayor Walsh said the position will eventually include two to four people, all focusing on school relationships and launching programs to increase student performance in an effort to discover “new ways of delivering education to our kids.”

“What we can’t be afraid of is change,” Dorsey said, “because we’re going to get some feedback back that says we’re not doing as well as we need to be doing.”

Boston faces a host of issues in the school system. Currently in Boston schools, 110 teachers are without a position, remaining on payroll because of their “permanent” status.  They still collect salaries and benefits totaling over $10 million.

The average teacher in Boston makes $88,000 per year.

While the majority of these teachers hold a rating of satisfactory, a change in the hiring process left them without jobs.  Officials are now allowed to overlook internal candidates, choosing from outside the system if necessary in order to find the best candidates.

“It’s a small cost for us, overall, to make sure we have a great teacher in every classroom,” said Ross Wilson, assistant superintendent for human capital. “Instead of forcing the placement of teachers in the classroom, we are allowing schools to choose the teachers they want.”

According to school officials, these staff members will be assigned “suitable” tasks such as substitutes or teacher aides, until they can fill an empty teaching position.

Many are left wondering why teachers are being brought in from outside the system when so many local teachers who know how to teach are being overlooked.

“Given their level of accomplishment, to have these folks unplaced is not only a disservice to students but it is waste of resources and scarce funds,” Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union said.