June 28, 2016 – Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang announced today that he has selected celebrated educational leader Michael Contompasis as the interim head master of Boston Latin School and longtime BPS educator Jerry Howland as the associate head master.
Dr. Chang and BLS senior Phillip Sossou, who created portraits of all BLS seniors.
Dr. Chang also appointed Alexandra Montes McNeil as instructional superintendent for Boston Latin. She will provide direct support in the areas of instruction, hiring, and budget.
Mr. Contompasis, a 1957 graduate of Boston Latin who taught biology and chemistry at his alma mater, served as head master of BLS from 1976 to 1998 during which he earned the prestigious Milken Educator award. In 1998, he was appointed chief operating officer for Boston Public Schools before becoming superintendent of the district from 2005 to 2007.
Mr. Howland, a 1966 graduate of BLS, served as headmaster of Another Course to College, house master in charge of discipline at former Jamaica Plain High School, and head of the Math department at The English High School during his 46-year career with BPS. A veteran math teacher and an attorney who has long instructed students in law and in mock trials, he has earned Boston’s “Golden Apple” and Massachusetts “Teacher of the Year” awards. He was also nominated as a finalist for “National Teacher of the Year.”
“I have every confidence that Michael Contompasis and Jerry Howland have the deep experience, knowledge, and passion necessary to guide Boston Latin School through this transitional process. Together, they will ensure that this historic institution both upholds its tradition of unparalleled academic excellence and serves as a model for a safe and welcoming school environment for all,” Superintendent Chang said. “They have dedicated their lives to educating students in Boston, and have a thorough understanding of the unique issues currently facing Boston Latin School.”
Dr. Montes McNeil, the daughter of a retired BPS principal and a first generation Cuban-American, is currently a principal leader for the Boston Public Schools. During her 23-year career at BPS, she served as a chemistry and physics teacher, science program director and assistant head master at Boston Latin School. She also served for six years as a principal of the Mario Umana Academy in East Boston. Dr. Montes McNeil earned a bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s degree and doctorate from Boston College’s Lynch School of Education. She is also a parent of a Boston Latin student and a Class of 2010 BLS graduate.
Superintendent Chang in the coming weeks will name the co-chairs of the Boston Latin School head master screening committee, which will launch a search for a permanent leader. Dr. Chang expects to appoint the school’s 28th head master in March.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh lauded both Mr. Contompasis and Mr. Howland as highly respected educational leaders who are well suited to take on the role of working with students, faculty, alumni, and community stakeholders to advance Boston Latin School’s academic excellence and foster a nurturing school culture.
“Superintendent Chang has made a thoughtful decision in naming Mr. Contompasisand Mr. Howland to the lead Boston Latin School as we search for a permanent head master,” Mayor Walsh said. “They have deep ties to Boston Public Schools and proven track records of making decisions that are the best interests of the children and families of the city of Boston.”
Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael O’Neill said the vast experience of Mr. Contompasis and Mr. Howland – they both earned master’s degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education – will be invaluable as they take over as the interim leaders of Boston Latin.
“These are two extremely thoughtful, caring, and dedicated educators who are both highly regarded in the city of Boston. Working alongside Instructional Superintendent Montes McNeil, they will serve as an incredible resource for Boston Latin and the entire BPS community at this important juncture,” said Chairperson O’Neill, himself a 1978 graduate of BLS.
Mr. Contompasis, 76, who after a 40-year career at BPS became a senior field consultant at the non-profit Mass Insight Education, said he feels honored to be called upon to guide Boston Latin at this a critical phase in the history of the nation’s oldest public school.
“I thank Superintendent Chang for providing me this wonderful opportunity to lead an institution which is such an important part of who I am today,” said Mr. Contompasis, who received the Distinguished Service Award by the Council of Great City Schools in 2006. “I understand firsthand that we all have a duty to preserve Boston Latin’s mission of providing the very best quality of public education. That includes making sure all of our students, faculty, and staff feel safe and supported. I look forward to working closely with the many talented and dedicated individuals at Boston Latin and BPS as we carry this mission forward.”
Mr. Howland, who grew up in the Fidelis Way housing development in Brighton and got his start as a teacher at the McCormack Middle School in Columbia Point, said what drew him into education – and away from a career in law – was that he felt he could do greater good on issues of social justice as an educator than an attorney.
“What I love about Latin School is the fact that a kid from a housing project in Boston can get the highest-quality prep school education in a public school – at no cost to his parents. I am that kid,” said Mr. Howland, who holds a law degree from Suffolk University. “I am both humbled and honored to be chosen as an interim leader at BLS with the task of continuing the excellence in education for students at BLS from all over the city. I look forward to meeting with and working with all of the constituent groups at BLS to make that happen.”
Roderick L. Ireland, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts and a distinguished professor at Northeastern University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, praised Mr. Howland for his decades of work leading Boston students in mock trial tournaments, including helping The English High School win three straight championships.
“I have worked with Jerry Howland for more than two decades with the Supreme Judicial Court’s Judicial Youth Corps program, which for 25 years has partnered courts and schools to work with high school students and expose them to the court system and the legal world. I know him to be a thoughtful, experienced, sincere, genuine, sensitive, extremely intelligent person who has successfully worked with young people his entire career. Indeed, he works well with everyone,” former Chief Justice Ireland said. “Over the years, he has demonstrated again and again his commitment to racial equality. I am sure that he will do an outstanding job as the executive director of Boston Latin School.”
Mr. Howland, 67, of Roslindale, is married to Shari Nethersole, the director of community health for Boston Children’s Hospital who serves as an advisor to BPS on a wide-range of public health issues.