BOSTON (CBS)– Today marks a new beginning for Boston Public Schools. It’s the first day for the new superintendent.

Paula Ebben sat down with Dr. Tommy Chang to learn more about his history and how he plans to start improving the city’s schools.

“I actually remember my first day in America,” said Dr. Chang. “And it was in school, and I remember being in PE class.”

Chang was six. His family had come from Taiwan, and that PE teacher mocked him for his poor English.

“If it was not for my first grade teacher Miss Helen Cowells who embraced my abilities as being a leader, loving the arts and sciences, and teaching me English, I don’t think I would be as successful today,” he said.

He was so successful raising graduation rates in LA that it led him here to Boston, where he officially begins a five year contract as superintendent today.

Chang says he has already figured out his top three priorities as he prepares to tackle his new job.

“I would say number one–ensuring every student who wants access to a rigorous curriculum has that opportunity,” he said. “I would say number two–what we can do around teaching and inventing where teaching and learning can take place – it should not have to happen within classrooms. Thirdly, this is something I know that families have been demanding and there is a demand for it every time I talk with them –they want high quality school choice close to home.”

This former principal of a California charter school says he hears what parents, much like his own, really want.

“They all wanted safe schools, they wanted high expectations for their students,” Chang said. “They wanted their students to graduate with course work that allows them to apply to a four year university, or ready to enter the work force–they all said the same things.”

Talking to some BPS teachers he says, “I just want to thank you for the work.”

He admires teachers, wants to innovate, and says the job is about the expectation that all students can learn.

“If there are ways to increase learning in any way, whether that’s increasing a school day or a school year, and we can make it work? Let’s do it!” said Chang.

In Los Angeles, Chang was a superintendent overseeing almost 100,000 students. In Boston that number is fewer than 60,000, but he says the challenges and goals remain the same.

Chang will also be a BPS parent. Once his family arrives, his ten-year-old daughter will be enrolled in the Boston Public Schools.

Paula Ebben

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