Exclusive Q&A with new Superintendent Andrew Bott
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Brookline’s Superintendent Andrew Bott spent 14 years working the Boston Public Schools before moving to the Brookline Public Schools in 2014. In his free time, Bott enjoys skiing, reading and coaching his son’s soccer team. The Sagamore sat down with him to learn more about his role.
What does the job of Superintendent entail?
I mean, everything from hiring and supporting principals to making sure the work of different departments are aligned, from starting to bridge communication to the budget. We have a large budget as a school system but we also have a challenging deficit that we’ve had to figure out how to manage, about a million dollars currently. For me and the entire team to figure out how to manage that without impacting schools or students is a real challenge and I think we’ve done that successfully. The budget hasn’t been voted on yet, but in the recommended budget that’s there. So, from budget to operations to making sure curriculums align, that K-8s are connecting with the high school so that there’s a much smoother transition from 8th grade to 9th grade, I think all of it, from hearing about how to expand clubs and athletics and better support all of our students. I think at the core of all of this is how do we ensure not just equal access but equal success for everyone? How do we finally eliminate the achievement gaps that do exist.
What are your the important issues you are currently working on?
I think first and foremost it is making sure what we’re doing is in support of learning. Making sure we’re supporting equal opportunities and supporting equal outcomes. That is a huge piece of the work, with coordinators, with principals, the different departments. The budget is a huge piece of the job; developing and presenting a budget, and then the school projects, because of the need in Brookline, are a huge part of the job right now. The need to expand the high school by 700 students, the need to build a brand new school, is all important and very complicated work, and so that takes up a lot of time.
In this position, how has your relationship with students changed?
It’s much more limited and that was a very serious and deep deliberation I had before applying for the job you know, a fear of losing that connection. The job is supporting principals and administrators and supporting teachers and supporting students. It’s a step farther away. What’s important for me is to make sure that with so many demands on my time, I am in schools so that while I may not have personal connections with the number of students I did as principal, I have a personal connection with the community and make sure that’s a part of what I do.
Do you think being a parent has affected how you approach your role as an educator?
For me, certainly. One of my children is a student in Brookline, so I am superintendent, but I also have the perspective as a parent of a student in Brookline Public Schools. I think that’s really a unique perspective, and I think for me it’s an important perspective to bring to the job.
What’s the hardest part of the job?
The hardest part is I think it’s similar to any job, there’s just a lot. And so it’s prioritizing time: you have to make decisions about how to prioritize your time, and many times you’re right and sometimes you’re not and sort of constantly adjusting. That’s the hardest part of any job, and it’s no different in this job.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
What I really enjoy about the job is tackling challenges and getting to good plans and solutions, sort of that process of moving forward, whether it’s adding courses to the Course Catalogue, to the construction of expanding BHS, to supporting principals. You can think through any number of challenges. Working with students who have identified challenges and bringing it to the people who can work with students to change it. Building those bridges so that these webs are built is something I really enjoy because it’s through those connections that you can make change and progress.
When a lot of high school students hear “superintendent” they think “decides about snow days.” What are your thoughts?
Snowdays. It’s an awful decision. Everyone told me coming into the job that it was the hardest part of the job and it is my decision. It’s a decision I make under the close advice and council of the Director of Public Works. In Brookline we are lucky as a town to have a commissioner of the Public Works Department that has been around for many years and just has a deep knowledge and sense of in any given storm can the roads, sidewalks, pathways, all be clear so that everyone can get to school safely. Also discussing with superintendents in communities around us what makes sense. And sometimes you get it right and sometimes you know, hindsight’s 20/20, the storm changes path. So it’s a hard decision and it’s kept me up late many nights.