In 1789, the General Court of the Colony granted authority to “trust to appoint School Committees for the control of the Schools.” In accordance with the provisions of this act, the first School Committee for Boston was chosen October 20, 1789, “to exercise all the Powers relating to the Schools and School Masters, which the Selectmen or such Committees are authorized by the Laws of this Commonwealth on the Votes of this Town to exercise.” Under the reorganized plan of 1789, the public schools of Boston were administered by a committee consisting of twenty-one members, nine selectmen and one member from each of the twelve wards. For administrative purposes, the Board of twenty-one members was divided into various sub-committees. Sub-committees included a visiting committee, a committee to fill vacancies in the teaching staff and an examining committee.
Prior to 1818, the public schools admitted only children who had already received some rudimentary instruction. During that year, after considerable agitation on the part of the citizens of the town, primary schools were established. The citizens created in town meeting a special committee distinct and separate from the regular School Committee to safeguard the interests of the primary schools. This committee had a membership ranging from 36 at one time to 196 at another time. The Primary School Committee continued to have exclusive control of the primary schools until 1855, when these schools were placed under the jurisdiction of the general committee.
By terms of the Charter, authorization was granted the School Committee to have the general care and superintendence of the public schools. The number of members and terms of the School Committee fluctuated over the years through several charter revisions.
The office of the Superintendent of Schools was created in 1851. The appointment of teachers, however, still remained the prerogative of the School Committee. In 1876, the rules and regulations were revised and considerable nominal power was granted to the Superintendent and Supervisors, but the appointment of teachers was retained by the district subcommittees. The newly established Board of Supervisors became a board for the examination and certification of teachers. In 1884, the Superintendent was given additional powers. He was to be held responsible to the School Board as the executive in the department of instruction over all supervisors, principals, and other instructors.
With the reorganization of the School Committee in 1906, all sub-committees were discontinued. One of the most important features of the revised rules and regulations of 1906 was the conferring of direct authority and responsibility upon the official staff of the Committee. The Superintendent was designated as the executive officer of the School Committee in all matters relating to instruction and discipline in the public schools; and was given the power, subject to the approval of the School Committee, to appoint, reappoint, transfer and remove all directors, principals and teachers.
Chapter 108 of the Acts of 1991 replaced the elected School Committee with a board of seven members serving four-year terms, appointed by the Mayor from nominees.