Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Joel Boyd has received an offer that, as they say, he couldn’t refuse, and he will leave the district for the private sector by the end of the summer. He announced his departure Tuesday for what he calls a “compelling and unique opportunity” to work as senior vice president of BrightBytes, a San Francisco-based research organization that analyzes and synthesizes the sea of overwhelming and even at times unintelligible school performance data and research.
Pointing to a card from his late brother’s desk that hangs in his office (alongside his Harvard credentials) and reads, “You can’t hit if you don’t swing,” Boyd says, “I tell people all the time, ‘I might strike out, but I’m going to go down swinging. I’m not going to go down looking.’ And what we’re talking about here is if we can hit a home run in supporting all schools across America to do great work for kids. That’s the home run. So I’m going to keep swinging for it.
“I spent the last 15 years feeling as though I’m doing some pretty good work at a school level as a principal, now at the district level as a superintendent. Now there’s an opportunity to support multiple districts in multiple states across the country.”
Boyd often touts the district’s position as the fastest-improving in the state, citing an increased graduation rate and improved performance on standardized assessments since his arrival in 2012. He’s also overseen the opening of the Mandela International Magnet School, an International Baccalaureate program, and Engage Santa Fe, for people between the age of 16 and 22 who have been out of school for six months or more who want to complete a high school diploma. Boyd has gone so far as to serve as principal of that school, which serves about 100 students.
“Engage is going strong. Engage is going to be here,” he says. The next superintendent will have to decide whether to mirror Boyd’s self-described foolish undertaking in serving as principal of that school in addition to his duties as superintendent.
“Dr. Boyd has moved the district forward in a very positive direction, and we are thankful for the leadership and vision he provided over the past four years,” Board of Education President Susan Duncan said in a statement. She credited his reform efforts for setting the district on course to complete its five-year strategic plan.
“The success of the district has now been trending upward for several years, so the trends in student achievement are that now—they’re trends. They’re not anomalies,” Boyd says.
Transitioning now, rather than amid next year’s elections for new board of education members, may provide the district with more stability in preserving some of its recent achievements, Boyd argues.
At least twice before, Boyd has considered leaving the district. When he withdrew his candidacy from Nashville’s school district earlier this year, he declared the City Different home and said he intended to stay until the end of his contract, which is set to expire June 30, 2017. He tells SFR this opportunity to join a rapidly growing, new company that could potentially affect students across the US just didn’t seem like one likely to be repeated and so couldn’t be turned down.
The board will hold a special meeting on July 8 to accept Boyd’s resignation and possibly hire an interim superintendent. Boyd has set a tentative start date with BrightBytes for mid-August.
His tenure has been met with some accolades and some bristling responses. In the same month he was charged with creating an atmosphere that fueled low employee morale, according a survey conducted by NEA-Santa Fe that saw 200 responses, Mayor Javier Gonzales, Think New Mexico and members of the school board nominated him for New Mexico Superintendent of the Year.