The Boston school committee has voted unanimously on 111 agenda items over the past year — every matter before the board, with the single exception of a 5-2 vote on the new superintendent, a Herald review revealed.
The blocked-vote model has advocates wondering if the seven-member council is just a rubber stamp for Mayor Martin Walsh. He also resurrected calls for the school board to be elected instead of appointed.
“Right now, with our school committee appointed, you can clearly see that their voting record is generally, like 99% of the time, unanimous on a particular subject. So there’s actually no type of discourse or dissent,” said Ruby Reyes, director of the Boston Education Justice Alliance.
Over the past year, the school’s committee unanimously approved all 111 actions for a vote, according to minutes posted on the committee’s website. MEPs abstained four times, but no one voted against any of the points.
The Herald emailed all seven members seeking comment. Chairman Michael Loconto told the Herald to stop reaching out to other members because “the chairman speaks for the committee.” He said: “I’m not interested in commenting.”
Boston Public Schools spokesman Dan O’Brien also declined to comment.
Items on the agenda last year ranged from the approval of international school trips to the closure of West Roxbury Secondary School.
In one of four abstentions, school committee member Regina Robinson remained silent on December 19, 2018 on the closure of West Roxbury High. She was not reappointed for a second term.
The committee voted 5-2 on the selection of Superintendent Brenda Cassellius. Members Lorna Rivera and Alexandra Oliver-Davila voted for Superintendent candidate Marie Izquierdo.
Lisa Green of the Boston Coalition for Equity in Education said, “You can only assume they are acting on the wishes of the mayor. He doesn’t seem to be influenced by the testimony.
Green added that “the community engagement we’re getting from the school board isn’t enough and doesn’t feel genuine.”
Councilor and chair of the education committee, Annissa Essaibi-George, defended the committee, saying: “It is not surprising to see a school committee acting with greater unanimity and really working to establish a consensus around the positions he takes.”
Walsh said in a statement, “For more than 25 years, appointed school board members have brought stability, expertise, focus and broad representation to the oversight of Boston’s public schools.” He added that an elected council is “not the answer to the challenges we face, and would be a disservice to our children and a distraction from the work that remains”.
The seven members of the school committee are appointed by the mayor for staggered terms of four years. The Citizen Nominating Committee is currently accepting nominations for two positions on the Board of Directors which will begin in January 2020 when the terms of Alexandra Oliver-Davila and Lorna Rivera expire.
Boston is the only city in Massachusetts to have an appointed school board.
The Herald’s review excluded votes on whether to approve meeting minutes or adjournments, focusing on “action items” from agendas that required votes. There were 30 meetings in total last year.
Greg Sullivan, government watchdog at the Pioneer Institute, said, “Committees overseeing gigantic bureaucracies shouldn’t be in the habit of simply approving whatever has just been laid before them.
Sullivan said committees tended to “essentially cede their authority to appointed officials and the strongest sign of that is when you have 100% unanimous votes on proposals.”
Reyes said the lack of dissent would improve with an elected school committee: “If there was an elected school committee, the people who were elected to those positions – their accountability would not be to the mayor who appoints them, their responsibility would be to the people who elect them. »