Former superintendent Andrew Bott resigned in August 2019, and Ben Lummis was named interim superintendent in his absence. As the 2019-20 school year draws to a close and Lummis’ contract terminates, it came time to appoint a new interim superintendent.
At the Brookline School Committee meeting that took place May 22 and went live via Youtube as well as Facebook, the School Committee interviewed Dr. James Marini, who had been vetted and recommended by the Interim Superintendent Search Committee. Marini was unanimously elected the interim superintendent for the 2020-21 school year.
According to the head of the superintendent search committee, Helen Charlupski, the original search for a permanent superintendent was unsuccessful. At a School Committee meeting on March 16, they voted instead to begin the search for an interim superintendent to start in July, 2020.
After interviewing a number of applicants, the committee decided on Marini. According to Charlupski, they were looking for a candidate with lots of experience as a superintendent, as well as someone who could move forward in this time.
“We felt that he was the most qualified person to help us move the city forward,” Charlupski said. “He’s familiar with Brookline because he was the mentor to the current interim, and he was a high school principal in Newton and a superintendent in Winchester, two districts that are very similar to Brookline.”
School Committee member Barbara Scotto added that Marini’s experience working with teachers could ease tensions in contract negotiations.
“I think somebody coming in who has done this job in several school systems, will have had experience with unions,” Scotto said. “I think he will bring the kind of experience that we need, that will hopefully make teachers a little more comfortable.”
During the publicly broadcasted school committee interview, Marini answered several questions ranging from the budget crisis, to his leadership philosophy during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also highlighted the importance of teamwork and support in a school system.
When it comes to the budget crisis, Marini shared his desire for having a budget subcommittee. He said that as superintendent, he would need to set a budget that meets the needs of both students and staff by looking for cuts outside of the classroom.
“When it comes to reductions, my priority is always to stay as far away from the classroom as possible, and if there are additions, we go as close to the classroom as possible,” Marini said.
Later, when asked about COVID-19, he said that all decisions should be made by listening to the community.
“Decisions around COVID need to be made with thoughtful, informed input from people who have expertise. That would include teachers, administrators, the School Committee and the parent community,” Marini said. “There are guidelines from the state and federal governments and I would say having a group of people that include experts in the community to inform safety, is necessary.”
Marini added that, amid quarantine, it is more important than ever to build bridges of commonality within our community. According to him, a better understanding of each other is paramount to building up communal trust, that will allow us to better deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s a lot of fear, there’s a lot of concern and a lot of uncertainty, and in order to address that we need to understand each other and know each other,” Marini said. “That would allow me to build up those relationships, so we can take on those important tasks without them taking us on.”