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Boston Latin graduate who moved to DC to return as school headmaster

Skerritt

School Superintendent Tommy Chang announced today he's chosen Rachel Skerritt as Boston Latin School headmaster.

Skerritt, a Dorchester native and BLS graduate, is currently deputy chief of leadership development for the District of Columbia Public Schools.

She is the first person of color to head the exam school. She is the 28th headmaster in the school's 382-year history.

Skerritt replaces Lynne Mooney Teta, another BLS alum, who resigned last June after a contentious period involving the racial climate at the school. Retired Headmaster Michael Contompasis had served as interim headmaster.

Skerritt, who earned a bachelor's degree and a masters in education at the University of Pennsylvania, has past BPS and BLS experience - she taught English between 1999 and 2006, and served on the committee that wrote what is still the school's mission statement. In 2007, she was appointed headmaster at Another Course to College; in 2009, then Superintendent Carol Johnson made Skerritt her chief of staff.

Skerritt left Boston in 2010 to become principal at Eastern Senior High School in Washington DC, which had gone through 13 principals in 12 years before her arrival, but which she helped lead out of "turnaround" status by 2015. In June 2016, she was appointed deputy chief of leadership development for DCPS, overseeing the district's professional development programs for school leaders and aspiring principals.

In a statement, Chang said:

Rachel's life and professional experiences are tailor-made to lead Boston Latin School into its next chapter of excellence and equity for all. She is a champion of providing rigor and opportunities for every single student in her care, and she is someone who will not compromise when it comes to the education of young people.

Mayor Marty Walsh added:

We would be hard pressed to find another educator better suited to lead Boston Latin School than Rachel Skerritt. Rachel's passion for her alma mater, her deep familiarity with its traditions, and her commitment to equity make her uniquely qualified for this role,. We are grateful she has chosen to return to Boston and serve the students of our city.

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Comments

Though Lynne should have never taken the fall for the behind the scene machinations (I'm looking at you goofball challenger to Marty) that took place last year, this woman is a good choice for this position.

Would everyone please get out of the way and now let Latin do what it does best; be the best, get the best out of their students, and set an example of excellence that many, though not all, of Boston high schools cannot seem to muster?

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By that I mean the laws which protect students from bullying by other students and require training and anti-bullying supervision of teachers and administrators.

By that I mean the special education laws that apply to EVERY school in the Commonwealth.

By that I mean sanctioning/retraining/firing any and all teachers and administrators who don't get the above.

Latin is special ... but it is not THAT special that it can use "being spessssshulll" as an excuse for promoting bullying and ignoring the rules.

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She was my teacher at BLS for 7th grade English. Her passion for urban education and her commitment to BLS and BPS was palpable. And she was a damn good teacher.

As an aside: I will always remember sitting in her classroom, 6 days into my career at BLS, on a sunny September afternoon in 2001 discussing the chaos and tragedy of the day. Then the rumble of an airplane grew stronger and stronger. Ms. Skerritt said, "everyone be quiet." And we sat in silence and listened to this airplane fly right over our heads. I peeked over at her and she looked terrified. I remember waiting for the sound of the plane crashing into the Hancock Tower but it never came. Of all my memories from that day, that one is the most vivid. I'll remember it forever.

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I remember my history teacher running down the hall crying when JFK was shot.

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Crying when Challenger blew apart

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...crying when they cancelled The Galloping Gourmet from Public TV (sure he came back to TV decades later but the damage was done).

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TVs being wheeled out of the library and into the hallway at lunch time when Reagan was shot.

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when the phantom menace trailer finally finished downloading

boy was i excited for that movie

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What exactly is 'urban education'?

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I assume education that is sensitive to the fact that the schools have students with a wide range of socioeconomic status and life stability, students of many different cultures, and so forth. The needs of these kids and their families are quite different from a suburban school.

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talking to BLS parents, there's often an under current of 'it's a great school but should be better' and that mostly seems to pertain to a lack of motivation by some teachers to improve. Basically it sounds like there is this attitude (only with some teachers) that this is the top school, therefore I'm a top teacher and it's supposed to be hard so I won't try to make this easier for your student, but not in terms of course work but stupid process type stuff.

So I ask the panel, is this true(ish)?

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And, yes, I'm sure there are some BLS teachers who could be better, but so far my daughter is finding her BLS experience more than prepared her for college.

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I guess that's the core of it - if BLS is this flagship school, I've always been surprised by this undercurrent that there's under motivated teachers there. Anyways I'm glad this new person sounds like a great pick. To be clear, there should be hard teachers and challenging classes and all that, I'm talking more about the stuff where it just seems like institutional antipathy to change/improvement.

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Why not just fire the under motivated teachers and bring in better ones?

I am sure a place like BLS has no problem recruiting top educators from all over the world.

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n/t

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Or I'm guessing you don't know much about how the BPS works, or teachers' unions. It's not like wooing some great economics prof to come to Harvard.

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One thing I have never been able to understand is how the remainder of the Boston School System is ignored like a redheaded step child.

Every time the system is criticized, the retort is always:

"yeah but...But ....BLS! Yeah! Boston Latin, Baby! Best High School EVAH! Oh what's that? Your kid didn't get in BLS? Space got taken by a kid from the 'burbs with a fake address? Aw, tough break. Oh well, F-him. There's always technical school!"

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Because I never hear such fatuous arguments.

Now, there is a case of fairness to be made in the sense that BLS has a large, active and rich alumni group that does things like launch $50 million fundraising drives, and wouldn't it be nice if they could at least help other schools learn how to at least get better at their own fundraising, but that's not the sort of simple binary thinking you're complaining about. Also, it's not like BPS showers BLS in extra goodies - in fact, it doesn't treat it any differently (like last year, when budget cuts were going to hit the school just like all the others).

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I should have clarified above, my comment(s) are that of a complete outsider. I have little knowledge of the BPS other than BLS gets all the attention and apparently, effort. I'm glad your family had a great experience there and that others are doing the same.

I just still wonder why not even a fraction of that same community effort and energy is directed at other schools in the district.

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Parents who are most active in their community tend to raise kids who test in to exam schools.

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You seem to be leaving out BLA and OB, which both do pretty well, too. As was already pointed out - BPS doesn't do anything extra for BLS compared to other exam schools (and non-exam schools). It is the BLSA and its continuous fund raising efforts/donations that separate things monetarily, at least.

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Sumus Primi , baby !

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A lot of Latin kids, and especially a lot of their parents have set extremely high standards for what they might consider adequate. I have two kids there and hope to send my third. I think they are overall well taught by highly skilled and committed educators. That said, I do hear some of the same claims you do, but I often suspect they come from people with standards so high that they might well never be satisfied.

Not to say that there are no bad teachers on staff. A school that size will have some, and indeed, at least one of the teachers my daughter has had, I will absolutely reject if any of my other kids are assigned to her class. But by a significant margin, the educational quality meets the more established reputation in my opinion.

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However, I've mostly heard this from people I view as pretty level headed about what they expect from the school. I guess my point is that improving the teacher cadre is a free improvement given time to slowly remove the problem teachers. It's plum job, right? I was hoping that the 'bad' teachers were also older teachers, slowly being swapped out.

Care to share the course taught by the teacher you'd avoid?

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Make me laugh.

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Curious about your comment about it being a plum job. Can you elaborate?

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Compared to teaching at some other BPS schools, Latin is a plum job - lots of disciplinary support, parental involvement, students reading at/above level, opt-in process weeds out unengaged students - these things all make it easier for teachers to focus on teaching and not being teachers/parents/social workers/parole officers like they are at some other schools.

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Tell us the name. Or I yawn a lot.

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I mean, I'd say that forcing the kids to deal with institutional hang-ups and educational bureaucracy instead of making it easier for them and filling out paperwork behind the scenes etc, IS a form of education for a school where almost all of them are going to college. I still remember my freshman year in college, when my roommate called her parents crying because she couldn't figure out how to apply for parking (and had already gotten a bunch of tickets). Sourcing that info on the website never occurred to her.

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I don't think anyone who went there would disagree (tho feel free to)--there are some truly fantastic teachers, there's some deadwood, and there are a few teachers who are completely nuts. I don't think there's anything special about BLS that allows it to get rid of bad teachers any more easily than any other bps school. That said, overall it's a very good school, flawed but some great teachers and really amazing students.

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Rachel Skerrit will be a great leader for BLS. She is committed to both excellence and opportunity. She was a fantastic and committed teacher, and has become an insightful and effective administrator, always keeping the long-term best interests of her students front and center.

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Rachel Skerrit is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.

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go play a little solitaire?

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I went to BLS for a couple years in the early '90s. It is a great school, although I wish it offered more services to make the transition easier -- especially for those kids from other BPS schools who often are overwhelmed, like I was. In hindsight I was not ready for the challenge, but it's hard to say no once you get in there.

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Everyone is overwhelmed upon entering the Latin School. The important lessons aren't all in the books . but I hear that now they have pictures .They tell you work plus desire equals success, something that is equally the case in life as well. The school is not for everybody,But if you are lucky enough to get in, no matter what fork in the road you take, the experience is priceless.

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