Mayor names new school committee member, reappoints another
Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Monday decided not to reappoint a Boston School Committee member who recently abstained from a controversial school closing vote and instead gave the seat to a state civil rights administrator who will be the first Asian to serve in more than a decade.
Walsh’s office also announced Monday that he had reappointed Jeri Robinson, the retired vice president of Early Childhood Initiatives at the Boston Children’s Museum to another four-year term on the seven-member School Committee.
Quoc Tran, the secretariat deputy director of the Office of Diversity and Civil Rights at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services, will increase the diversity on a committee that is supposed to reflect the racial, cultural, and socio-economic diversity of the city.
The appointments come at a critical juncture for the 56,000-student system as the School Committee embarks on a search for a new superintendent after Tommy Chang resigned in June. The committee hopes to have a permanent leader in place by July.
In the meantime, Laura Perille, the former chief executive of the Boston nonprofit EdVestors, is leading the system and is expected to unveil a budget proposal next month of more than $1 billion.
“Quoc Tran is a great addition to the Boston School Committee,” Walsh said in a statement. “His experience as a civil rights attorney and a community leader will add a unique and crucial perspective to the group. I’m also proud to reappoint Jeri Robinson to the Committee, who for the last four years worked and advocated tirelessly to create opportunities for our students.”
Tran replaces another Robinson on the committee: Regina Robinson, the dean of student affairs at Cambridge College, who was one of only two members with children in the Boston school system. She was the sole member to abstain from voting Dec. 19 on a plan to close Urban Science Academy and West Roxbury Academy, saying she feared the closings would cause “too much disruption to a vulnerable population of students.”
Both schools serve a high portion of students living in poverty, while Urban Science has a well-regarded program for students on the autism spectrum and West Roxbury Academy has a specialty in serving students lacking fluency in English.
The five other School Committee members in attendance, including Jeri Robinson, approved the closures, enabling the board to deliver what is technically considered a unanimous vote on a proposal that drew months of protests.
Regina Robinson, who was first appointed to the committee four years ago, said Monday that it had been a pleasure serving on the board. “As a mom of four BPS students, I remain committed to elevating the voices, abilities, and achievements of all kids, especially the most vulnerable populations,” she said in a statement. “Raising a son with Down syndrome has grounded me in the work of engaging, educating, and empowering parents to be the strongest advocate for the success of their child. I thank Mayor Walsh for appointing me in the past and look forward to continuing this urgent work.”
Her departure from the committee garnered disappointment on social media, coming at a time when a growing number of parents, educators, and civil rights leaders yearn for a return to an elected School Committee, out of concern that Walsh exerts too much power over education policy and the School Committee. It was after a meeting in June with Walsh that Chang decided to resign, taking the School Committee by surprise.
In a statement, Walsh said, “I thank Regina for her years of service as a member of the Boston School Committee and for her dedication to improving the lives of students in Boston.”
At the health and human services agency, Tran oversees diversity initiatives and creates affirmative action plans to retain a diverse workforce. He previously served as executive director of the Vietnamese American Civic Association, which works with Vietnamese refugees and immigrants. Tran, of Dorchester, holds a doctorate in law from Suffolk University.
“I am very honored to have received Mayor Walsh’s trust and confidence in appointing me to this very important Boston School Committee,” said Tran, a former Boston high school teacher with children at Boston Latin School, in a statement. “I look forward to working alongside all other Committee members in ensuring the highest quality possible that our city’s school system deserves.”
Tran and both of the Robinsons were among six finalists recommended for the two seats by a nominating committee of parents, teachers, and other stakeholders in the education world. The three other finalists were Gina D’Addario, Kristen Toher Leathers, and Eytan Wurman. A total of nine people applied for the two seats.
A swearing-in ceremony will take place Jan. 7 at 4 p.m. at School Department Headquarters in Dudley Square.
“We are pleased to welcome Quoc Tran to the Boston School Committee, and look forward to working with him on the important issues facing our students, educators and schools in 2019 and beyond,” said Michael Loconto, chair of Boston School Committee, in a statement.
The School Committee has one remaining open seat, which was vacated by Miren Uriarte last month. Applications for that seat are due Jan. 7, and the nominating panel is expected to make its recommendations to Walsh by Jan. 16. The prevailing candidate will finish the remainder of Uriarte’s term, which expires Dec. 31, 2019.