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Central Office Redesign

Client: Boston Public Schools


How can a district serve its school leaders better?

Critical to Dr. Tommy Chang’s objectives for BPS was to create a central office that supported school leaders, in professional growth, in leading instruction at their schools, and in navigating district operations.

We interviewed school leaders from a range of schools across the district, shadowing their day-to-day, sitting in on meetings or classroom observations, joining them to monitor lunch or greet students in the morning, and having conversations about how central office impacted their work.

Recognizing the politics and power imbalance, we shared our analysis of this learning back to school leaders for review and approval before bringing it to the Superintendent. With their blessing, we were able to engage Dr. Chang and his cabinet in what we had learned from school leaders.

At core, it became clear that effective school leaders are juggling multiple roles and harnessing entrepreneurial qualities to navigate BPS systems. Far from supporting school leaders, central office was seen as an obstacle, with a vast gray zone separating the decisions and strategies of central office from the realities of school implementation.

Dr. Chang’s administration enacted a number of changes intended to address the themes highlighted in our work. For example, our learning exposed how competitive the district felt for principals; Dr. Chang implemented a network structure that put school leaders into like teams to share best practices and learn together.

Dr. Chang’s redesign of central office drove new initiatives as well as new mindsets, moving towards a more cross-functional and collaborative way of working.
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