Boston, MA – Boston Public Schools’ (BPS) superintendent, Dr. Tommy Chang, recently announced his resignation from the position subsequent to allegations that he was responsible for releasing information to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) which eventually led to a student’s deportation. After only three years in office, this will mark the shortest leadership of any full-time Boston superintendent; Chang will in fact have served for approximately as much time as interim superintendent, John McDonough, whom he succeeded.
Chang began his role as superintendent in March of 2015, and received strong public support from the mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh. Chang was rumored to be Walsh’s favored superintendent candidate, and the mayor announced his confidence in the newly elected superintendent right away. Mayor Walsh released a public statement shortly after Chang won the majority vote of the Boston School Committee, declaring, “We need a transformative leader and that is Tommy Chang.”
Dr. Chang came from an already established background in education. He received his Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership from Loyola Marymount University, and held several jobs in the field prior to his period working as the superintendent of the Boston Public Schools. Chang has previously worked as a teacher at Compton High School, a principal at a California charter school, and a special assistant to the Los Angeles Unified School District’s superintendent. An immigrant himself, Chang moved to Los Angeles with his family at the age of six, leaving behind his childhood home of Taiwan. During his candidacy for superintendent, Chang discussed how he wanted to advocate for minority and disadvantaged students, including goals such as the creation of a more inclusive environment, and improved access to technology. He specifically mentioned his previous work on helping children with disabilities and language barriers become more integrated into classroom settings.
However, throughout his time as superintendent, Dr. Chang collided multiple times with the student body, the parents of BPS children, and even Mayor Walsh. In the past year, Chang supported a policy that would change the starting times of the Boston Publics Schools so that the younger students would begin school earlier and the older students, such as high schoolers, would begin later. The main discussion surrounding this new start time decision related to studies of teenagers requiring more sleep on average than most other age groups, but not attaining this ideal amount, allegedly in part to early high school start times. While the Boston School Committee voted unanimously in favor of the policy, there was a significant amount of backlash from the BPS parents. Many claimed that the changes would upset their scheduled work hours along with their plans for childcare. In order to accommodate this response, Dr. Chang delayed the start time policy’s implementation until the next year.
Then, in November of 2017, an IRS audit revealed that approximately $150,000 from the Boston Public Schools’ student activity funds were financing non-student endeavors such as BPS employee retirement parties and extra untaxed payments to the BPS employees for exam proctoring, DJ-ing jobs, and more. Chang apparently waited to notify Mayor Walsh of this development, and Walsh expressed his dissatisfaction at a press conference—at which he and Dr. Change were both in attendance—shortly after the news broke. Of the misused funds and his delayed notification, Walsh reported, “We’ve had a conversation, myself and the superintendent, and it won’t happen again.”
Now, just last week, “a coalition of students’ rights groups” and a nonprofit civil rights group known as the Lawyer’s Committee have accused Chang and the Boston Public Schools of contributing to a student’s deportation. They maintain that the school system – and Chang, consequently – shared information with the ICE which lead to the deportation of an East Boston public school student. The lawsuit alleges that the deportation case contained a school report of the student in question attempting to start a fight, along with unverified claims that the student was involved in a gang. Chang has denied the allegations against himself and the BPS, asserting that “BPS would never give student information to ICE, unless required under law” and that “immigrants make this nation strong.” He continued these sentiments in a farewell letter to the BPS community.
Mayor Walsh did not directly address the allegations, but did show support of Chang’s resignation, stating that BPS “need(s) a long-term education leader with a proven record in management who can gain the confidence of the community on the strategic vision for the district.” Walsh will supposedly have chosen an interim superintendent by next week.