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Office of the Commissioner

About the Commissioner

Russell D. Johnston became acting commissioner of elementary and secondary education on March 16, 2024. He was previously a deputy commissioner, a role in which he oversaw special education, instructional support, and a variety of initiatives to identify interventions and monitor improvement.

Since joining DESE in 2014, Acting Commissioner Johnston's work has included leading the team that provides direct support to the Lawrence, Holyoke and Southbridge schools; working closely with school districts on a variety of COVID-19 mitigation measures that helped keep students in school; meeting regularly with special education stakeholders to improve services to students with disabilities before, during, and after the pandemic; helping to pass policies that led to a reduction in the use of restraints and increased public reporting of their use; collaborating on improvements to the Individualized Education Program process for students with disabilities; and providing leadership to the instructional support staff who work to strengthen teaching and learning for all students.

Acting Commissioner Johnston's previous positions include serving as superintendent of the West Springfield Public Schools, special education director for West Springfield, and head of the elementary special education department for the Wellesley Public Schools.

Acting Commissioner Johnston lives in Melrose with his family and holds a bachelor's degree in education from DePaul University in Chicago, a master of education degree from Boston College, and a doctorate of philosophy and education, also from Boston College.

Last Updated: March 18, 2024

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
135 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA 02149

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


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