GOV.-ELECT MAURA HEALEY on Friday announced the appointment of former Lynn school superintendent Patrick Tutwiler as her education secretary.
Tutwiler is currently working as a senior program officer for the Barr Foundation, where he develops new models for high school education. Before that, he worked as deputy superintendent and then superintendent of Lynn Public Schools, from 2015 to August 2022. He has 20 years of experience in education, having worked as a Brighton High School history teacher, then as a senior administrator, including a stint as a high school principal, in the Boston, Wayland, and Westford public schools.
“Dr. Patrick Tutwiler has the experience, the empathy and the vision to make sure that every Massachusetts resident receives a high quality education at each stage of their life – from early education, to K-12 to higher education,” Healey said in a statement. “From his time working as a high school history teacher to leading a large, diverse, urban school district, he has earned his reputation as a consensus builder who puts diversity, equity and inclusion at the center of everything he does, and delivers results.”
Tutwiler said in a statement, “Our office is going to be all about the people – the students, the families, the educators and the staff who we serve will drive all of our decision making. I’m excited for the opportunity to build a strong team who will help us ensure that we have a high-quality, equitable and thriving education system.”
Tutwiler is the second member of Healey’s cabinet to be appointed, after Administration and Finance Secretary Matthew Gorzkowicz.
Tutwiler, an Andover resident, holds a BA in history from The College of the Holy Cross, a master’s in education from Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and a PhD in curriculum and instruction from the Lynch School of Education at Boston College.
Tutwiler will become education secretary at a time when schools are benefitting from an influx in money, including federal COVID recovery money and an adjusted state school funding formula passed in the Student Opportunity Act. One challenge he will face is ensuring that schools are spending the new state money in a way that meets the goals of the Student Opportunity Act, to address long-standing achievement gaps that are both racial and socioeconomic. He will also confront a landscape where many students are struggling with pandemic-related learning loss and mental health problems.
Tutwiler has background in these issues from his time working in Lynn, a Gateway City that has struggled with its own achievement gaps. A press release from the Healey transition team said Tutwiler led efforts there to increase graduation rates, decrease push out rates, attract a more racially diverse faculty and staff, and establish Massachusetts’s second largest early college program.
Healey’s pick – someone with strong roots in the traditional public school world – also illustrates a break from the philosophy of outgoing Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, whose education secretary, Jim Peyser, came from the world of education policy and brought with him a strong focus on growing charter schools.
In an era when racial achievement gaps are an issue, and more attention is being paid to diversifying the pipeline of educators, it will also be symbolic to have a Black man overseeing the state’s education system.
Beth Kontos, president of the teachers’ union AFT Massachusetts, praised Tutwiler as “a professional educator of the highest caliber who puts students and families first, while also respecting dedicated educators in the classroom.”
Mary Tamer, state director of Democrats for Education Reform Massachusetts, a group focused on reforming public education, which is often on the other side of issues from the teachers’ unions, also praised the choice of Tutwiler, calling it “an historic and inspired choice.” “His experience as a teacher, principal, and superintendent in both urban and suburban districts demonstrates his broad experience,” Tamer said in a statement. “We are encouraged by the student centered approach he was known for in Lynn, and are hopeful he will continue to focus on raising graduation rates, diversifying our teaching staff, and ensuring that all students get what they need and deserve to be supported and successful.”
Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, said Tutwiler has taken a leadership role in a group of urban superintendents, and he always comes to those meetings focused on identifying populations of students who need extra attention. “Pat is constantly focused on the conversation about what’s in the best interests of kids,” Scott said, calling him a “student-centered leader.”