Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey on Wednesday reaffirmed her commitment to preserve Latino representation on the Boston School Committee, following the abrupt resignations of two Latina members earlier this month.
“More than 40 percent of Boston School students are Latino,” Janey said during a press conference at City Hall. “With the resignation of two Latino leaders, there is a void that must be filled.”
Janey named Betty Francisco, cofounder of Amplify Latinx and a BPS parent, to the Boston School Committee Nominating Panel on Wednesday. The group of parents, teachers, principals, and representatives of business and higher education, will recommend three to five School Committee candidates to Janey within 30 days.
The nominating panel is expected to open applications on Thursday for both openings on the School Committee. The two people newly appointed to the School Committee will only serve concurrent with Janey’s tenure as acting mayor.
Janey’s call for Latino representation came on the heels of two resignations on the Boston School Committee — chair Alexandra Oliver-Dávila and member Lorna Rivera — after disparaging text messages sent between them during an October meeting recently came to light.
“Recent media reports have placed the legacy of racial discrimination in our schools front and center,” Janey said. “As a Black woman, I am no stranger to the negative impacts of racism. I know we must build trust with each other and find common ground.
“In order to heal, we must find the courage to call out racism and commit to the shared work of tearing down the structures of bigotry and discrimination,” Janey continued. “Healing these wounds starts with informed conversations and the tools to create shared solutions.”
During the October meeting, the School Committee voted to approve a temporary change to the exam school admissions policy that included dropping the entrance test. In their conversation, prior to the vote, Oliver-Dávila and Rivera were discussing testimony from families on the proposed change.
“Sick of Westie whites,” Rivera texted Oliver-Dávila.
“Wait until the white racists start yelling at us,” Rivera also texted.
Oliver-Dávila replied: “Whatever. They’re delusional.”
The texts only recently became public, despite a public records request from a Globe reporter in the fall for texts and e-mails sent among School Committee members during the October meeting. City officials have not explained why the texts were excluded from their response to the Globe — and why the Globe was not made aware of the redaction as public records law requires.
Asked Wednesday whether the city had broken public records law, Janey said the city is looking into it and will make more information available later this week.
“I’m not sure what happened last fall before I became mayor, but this is certainly under review,” she said. “We want to understand what happened.”
In an effort to set “new rules of engagement” between Boston School Committee members, families, and other stakeholders, Janey plans to extend racial equity and leadership training to all Boston School Committee members, she said. The training is already being offered to all city staff members.