The three finalists in line to become Boston Public Schools' next superintendent fielded questions this week in a series of public interviews. Brenda Cassellius, Marie Izquierdo and Oscar Santos were in the hot seat, each talking about their experiences and how they would do the job. WGBH Radio's Bianca Vazquez Toness from our Learning Curve team was at all three interviews this week. She spoke with WGBH All Things Considered anchor Barbara Howard about the interviews. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Barbara Howard: The search has not been without controversy. The new superintendent will step into the shoes of Tommy Chang. Chang was brought in to lead the schools back in 2015, but he left in 2018 with two years left on his contract. That raised some issues about whether Boston could attract some top-notch talent for the job in the search for a qualified candidate. Did they succeed in that?

Bianca Vazquez Toness: Well, it depends on who you ask. If you ask the school committee, yes. If you ask some observers, they would say that the fact that there isn't a person in the pool of finalists with deep experience as a superintendent is a big failure.

Read more: Former Education Secretary: BPS Finalists 'Still Not An A-Level Pool'

Howard: Well, let's get to the schools. There are a number of challenges facing the public schools: declining enrollments, the possible closure of some schools, varying quality when it comes to outcomes in the schools, wide achievement gaps. It seems like there is a lot to do. So what vision do these candidates lay out for solving some of those problems?

Vazquez Toness: The three candidates offered very different approaches and experiences. One candidate, Marie Izquierdo, from Miami-Dade County — I would call her the data candidate. She portrayed herself as someone who makes all decisions based on data and results. And by all accounts, she has brought up test scores and graduation rates in Miami-Dade County to a point where she's almost eliminated low-performing schools. She essentially said she’d repeat the same playbook she used in Miami, and that goes like this: First, she'd make sure all kids are getting challenging coursework in curriculum; she’d continuously train teachers; she'd use data to drive instruction; and she'd be laser-focused on what she calls "fragile schools."

Howard: Well, did she say anything about closing schools?

Vazquez Toness: She did, and this is a really sensitive issue for many educators and parents. But she was the most direct in her response to that question. Izquierdo said, “We have 18,000 students that are not choosing BPS. They're going elsewhere and we have declining enrollment. And while we may not like those data points, they are real, and so we have to, as an organization, adjust accordingly.”

Howard: Okay. Well that was Marie Izquierdo. What about the other candidates?

Read more: What Skills Would Each Finalist Bring As Boston's Superintendent?

Vazquez Toness: Well, the second candidate was Brenda Cassellius. She has broader experience, from being a paraprofessional, to being the commissioner of education for the state of Minnesota. She was much less definitive about what she'd do. She said she wouldn't come with preconceived ideas about how to fix the problems. She talked about needing to fix factors outside of school, whether it's a lack of housing or lack of food or mental health problems, which, by the way, is something that Marty Walsh has also talked a lot about. Cassellius thinks it's the responsibility of schools to organize all of those things.

When I pressed her on what she'd do in the classroom and in schools, she said, “We'll be making those decisions together about how to create equitable practices. I've heard clearly the school committee wants to have more rigor — so I would look at how do we have more rigor.” After five years, she said she'd want to be known for making Boston Public Schools the first choice for families, and also, one of the top 10 places to work in the state.

Howard: It's pretty ambitious. What about the final candidate, Oscar Santos. He's local?

Vazquez Toness: He grew up in Boston. He studied at Boston Latin. He taught in Boston Public Schools, and then he was a superintendent for three years in Randolph. And now he is the head of school at Cathedral High School, a Catholic school in the South End.

He also said he'd take a wait and see approach. But he did have some strong convictions for what needs to change. Right now, high schools in Boston all have different graduation requirements, and for the most part they are less than what's recommended by the state. He thinks that all schools should have these higher graduation requirements, including four years of math, four years of science.

Read more: Looking At The Finalists In The Search For A Superintendent For Boston Public Schools

Howard: Well Bianca, there are other problems facing the Boston Public Schools — lack of trust in some quarters. Some parents and educators, along with civil rights groups, have complained about what they see as a lack of transparency and indifference to community interest from school leaders and the mayor, who ultimately control the schools. So how do these candidates address those kinds of issues?

Vazquez Toness: Yes, the school committee members directly ask the candidates, how are you going to fix this relationship? And, you know, I have to wonder if part of Cassellius’ and Santos’ strategy for building trust is not coming in and saying we're going to change everything up. Instead, they said they're going to be consensus builders and listen to everyone. Also, Cassellius says that she'd give everyone, and she said everyone, her personal cell phone number.

Howard: All right. Well so at this point, what are the next steps?

Vazquez Toness: The school committee will get together next week to vote. Brenda Cassellius is in the running for another job. She's the finalist for state commissioner in Michigan. So that adds some drama to the decision.

Howard: That's Bianca Vasquez Toness with WGBH’s Learning Curve team. The decision on who will be the next Boston School Superintendent is to be made next Wednesday.

Our coverage of K through 12 education is made possible with support from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.