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Matthew King Is Leaving A Top Public District To Head A Tiny Jewish Day School. Why? One Word: "accountability."

Why leave Wellesley, one of the top school districts in the state, to head the Rashi School, a small Jewish day school?

Actually, in my profession, it’s not unusual for the superintendent of a high performing suburban school district to move to the head of an independent school. It’s always interesting to me how some people are incredulous about why would you want, as an educator, to go back and work with teachers and kids.

Well, you’ve been superintendent for Carlisle, Lincoln-Sudbury, and Wellesley, and you’ve been quoted expressing frustration with the politics of public schools.
I would say that I’ve grown tired of the direction public education is going, with more and more controls from the state and federal government and less and less autonomy for individual schools and school systems. There’s no question I’ve had a very, very satisfying career. But right now, just the whole accountability movement, I guess you would say, has made working in schools not as satisfying as it used to be.

Did you grow up in a Jewish home?
You know, a lot of people, because my name is King, they don’t think I’m Jewish. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York – as traditional as you can get, I guess you could say. I went to Hebrew school, was bar mitzvahed, and same thing with my kids.

Do you consider yourself a religious person?
Depends how you define that. I would say as somebody who is observant, in terms of like going to synagogue every week, no. Am I a spiritual person? A lot of people think I am. Put it this way: I spend a lot of time thinking about the values that I have and how I can breathe life into those values. People ask me what do I do as a superintendent, and I can joke. I say, “I just wait for it to snow, so I can call school off.” But what I really do is try to breathe life into the core values that we have, and the core values of Rashi feel very good to me.

Rashi is planning to build a campus in Dedham on land owned by Hebrew SeniorLife, an elder-care facility. How will having an intergenerational campus affect the school?
It just strikes me as being a wonderful opportunity waiting to happen, to try to build in some connections within the school. I think the greater the age span that you can have in kids’ learning and development, the healthier the place is, which is why I happen to like K-8 schools, and this would be an opportunity to bring in some older people in some exciting ways.

You leave Wellesley on June 30 and start at Rashi July 1. Don’t you ever take a vacation?
I’ll take some time off. I have a place in Wellfleet, and that’s where I get my rest and time away. The one book on my mind is that new biography of Einstein, by [Walter] Isaacson. And I ride a bike, I have a kayak, and I putter around the yard.
– Michael Paulson