W. Roxbury attorney elected school committee chair
The Boston School Committee on Wednesday unanimously elected a 39-year-old attorney from West Roxbury as its new chairman, representing the first change in its leadership post in five years.
Michael Loconto, the in-house legal counsel for Curry College, is taking over for Michael O’Neill, who decided against running for chairman again.
Loconto, who has three daughters at the Beethoven and Ohrenberger schools in West Roxbury, said he wants to make the Boston Public Schools the first choice for all families and wants to provide tools for students from disadvantaged households so they can succeed.
“Mayor Walsh’s commitment to this city and the district is an inspiration to me and is a model for public service,” Loconto said during the meeting.
In some ways, Loconto’s elevation to chairman represents an end of an era for the seven-member board, which is appointed by the mayor. O’Neill’s time as chairman dates back to when Thomas M. Menino was mayor, while Loconto was one of the first to be appointed by Mayor Martin J. Walsh.
Although the mayor appoints the board, its members decide each year who will be chairman, a position that has had relative stability. Loconto is only the seventh person to serve as chairman since the appointed board was created in 1992. The record holder is Elizabeth Reilinger, who served in the post for 11 years.
Loconto’s election came on the same day that Walsh re-appointed him and fellow member Hardin Coleman to the board for another four years. Coleman, who was reelected Wednesday as vice chairman, said Loconto was the most logical choice as chairman.
“We know you will put the heart, the time, and soul into the job,” Coleman told Loconto after seconding his nomination for chair.
Alex Oliver-Davila made the motion to nominate Loconto.
Committee members also thanked O’Neill for his service. He will remain on the board as a member.
“It has been a privilege to lead this body on your behalf,” he said.
The School Committee has a number of significant issues before it, including passing a new budget for the next school year, negotiating a teachers contract, developing a plan for changing school start times, and reconfiguring grade spans at some of the system’s 125 schools.
Loconto made waves last month among some parents who thought he was not empathetic to their concerns about a plan that would have shifted the start times at many schools by more than two hours to 7:15 a.m. Many parents argued the opening bell was too early and would deprive their children of sleep.
Loconto, whose own children attended schools that would have kept their 8:30 start times, defended the plan. But school officials, under pressure from parents, city councilors, and civil rights leaders, eventually scrapped the plan.
Loconto’s parents flew up from Florida this week to show their support for him during the meeting, while Loconto’s wife and three daughters also sat in the audience.
“We are very proud of him,” his father, Bob, said after the meeting.