August 9, 2018
The state has appointed a new receiver for the Paul A. Dever Elementary School: former Boston Public Schools commissioner and Boston Latin School headmaster Michael Contompasis.
Long-struggling, the Dever is a Level 5 underperforming school on Columbia Point that has been in state-mandated receivership for years. Contompasis replaces former receiver Commissioner Jeffrey Riley of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. He in turn had just replaced temporary receiver Tommy Chang, who stepped down as superintendent of the public school system earlier this year.
In a letter announcing the appointment, the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said Contompasis “will work closely alongside” the Dever’s principal, Todd Fishburn.
“I am confident in their combined ability to build upon the progress Dever has already mase and address student’s needs,” Commissioner Jeffrey Riley wrote. He expects Contompasis to meet with staff as the school year nears.
The Dever has had a rocky few years in receivership. Chang took over the post in July 2017, after Newton-based nonprofit Blueprint Schools Network did not renew their three-year contract for the role. The turnaround school saw little academic improvement under the nonprofit’s oversight.
In August 2017, the state determined that the Dorchester school would remain in “chronically underperforming status,” and the turnaround plan was renewed for three years.
A letter renewing the plan touted improvements in “student learning and achievement” leading to a more positive school culture for students and staff. But, it noted, “student performance on English language arts (ELA) and mathematics state assessments are not yet showing a consistent positive trajectory.”
Chang amended the turnaround plan in his time as receiver. The school’s calendar did not align with the broader district, resulting in 10 to 20 percent less student attendance for Dever students on days when BPS was not in session. The state approved Chang’s amendment to the turnaround plan to reducing the number of student days from 186 days to 180 days and increasing the length of the student day by 10 minutes each day.
New receiver Contompasis has a long career with the Boston Public Schools beginning as a biology and chemistry teacher at East Boston High School and later teaching at Hyde Park High School and Boston Latin School. He was headmaster at Boston Latin from 1976 to 1998. Before serving as superintendent of the school system from 2005 to 2007, Contompasis had been the chief operating officer of the Boston Public Schools for about seven years.
He returned as interim headmaster of Boston Latin School in 2016, after serving in the non-profit sector for a time as a senior field director of Mass Insight Education.