Charles Chieppo: The wrong person to head Boston schools


Massachusetts  Education Secretary Matthew Malone has made no secret about wanting to become the next superintendent of Boston Public Schools.

“I’ve been training for this job all my life,” Malone told The Boston Globe. “It’s my calling.”

But there is precious little in Malone’s background to support that claim.

Before becoming secretary of education, Malone was superintendent in Brockton, the commonwealth’s fourth-largest school district. During his 2009-2012 tenure, the percentage of elementary- and secondary- school students scoring proficient or advanced on MCAS fell at every grade level but one. Eighteen months before his contract expired, the city’s school committee informed him that he would not be rehired.

Malone, who is no shrinking violet, also told The  Globe that he’s “in the arena and willing to fight and die for these kids.” Not only is there little to support that claim, but there is extensive evidence indicating it is blatantly false.

Brockton is the largest city in Massachusetts that doesn’t have a charter school. Toward the end of his tenure there, Malone’s primary focus seemed to be on ensuring the rejection of a charter school that had been proposed for the city.

The school was to be operated by Sabis, a charter-school-management company that operates two inner-city schools recently opened in Holyoke and Lowell, and a third in Springfield that has been operating for nearly 20 years. Every graduate in the history of the Springfield school has been accepted to college and it has repeatedly been recognized by Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation’s best high schools.

Sabis Springfield has a four-year graduation rate of more than 90 percent compared to less than 70 percent at Brockton High. On 2012 MCAS English tests, two-thirds of Sabis Springfield students scored advanced or proficient; less than half did so in Brockton. On math MCAS tests, the majority of Sabis students scored advanced or proficient compared to just over one-third in Brockton.

So did Malone “fight and die” for Brockton’s kids?

Hardly. Emails obtained by Pioneer Institute (which I am affiliated with as a senior fellow) show that he used his office and city resources to do things like craft a less-than-clever “$ABIS” logo and use his political contacts to kill the charter proposal. As Malone wrote in an email to the Brockton School Committee and several of his staff members, “It helps to have friends at [the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education].”

It worked. The Brockton charter school proposal was rejected, and the city is worse off as a result.

Perhaps Matthew Malone’s application to be superintendent of Boston Public Schools should read that he is “willing to fight and die for these kids” — once it’s clear that the status quo is protected and the jobs of every adult in the system are secure.

Charles Chieppo is the principal of Chieppo Strategies, a public-policy writing and communication firm.