To the Editor: It’s time for city to bring back an elected School Committee

To the Editor:

Last year, Boston School Committee Chair Michael Loconto was caught on microphone mocking the last names of Asian Americans during a recorded Zoom call. He resigned the next day. This June, School Committee Members Dr. Lorna Rivera and Chair Alexandra Oliver-Dávila resigned over leaked text messages regarding parents living in West Roxbury. Both these instances show how in its current structure, the all-appointed member school committee is in opposition, even hostile, to those for whom it’s intended to serve.

Before he departed to become US ambassador to the Holy See, Mayor Ray Flynn initially supported, and campaigned for, creating the all-appointed school committee. In 1989, in a non-binding referendum on the ballot, residents voted in favor of moving from a 13-member elected body to a 9-member body appointed by, and answerable to, the sitting mayor.

During the 1993 mayoral election, Flynn shared his regrets about creating the newly formed appointed school committee, stating as such, to the mayoral candidates in a letter that said: “Despite the accomplishments of the appointed board, I feel compelled to acknowledge that the loss of the vote for School Committee members has remained a bone in the throat of many Bostonians.”

Unlike the 1980s and 1990s, we are looking at a very different society which includes social media, cell phones in nearly every single pocket, reality television, and legalized same-sex marriage. While there are arguments to initiate a hybrid model of both elected and appointed members, I’m concerned that this particular model would continue the same lack of responsiveness we are already experiencing.

While an elected body will always have its own set of problems, it still would remain answerable to the people for whom it serves through regular elections.

Fortunately, City Councillors Ricardo Arroyo and Julia Meija have introduced a Home Rule Petition that would —over five years— transition the school panel from its current all-appointed 9-member body status to a fully-elected 13-member body by 2026. Please contact your district and at-large city councilors in support of this petition, which would help us create momentum to make this transition a reality.

Matthew J. Shochat
Dorchester