School Committee Affirms Focus on Equity and Antiracism

The Boston School Committee re-elected both Alexandra Oliver-Dávila to Chairperson and Michael O’Neill to Vice Chairperson in unanimous votes during its Annual Organizational Meeting on January 4.

“I am proud to formally welcome Alexandra Oliver-Dávila to her new role as Chairperson, and Michael O’Neill to his role as Vice Chairperson, and thank them both for their service on behalf of our students,” said Mayor Walsh. “Already, they are leading the charge to sharpen the School Committee’s focus on equity and antiracism in service of the students and families of the Boston Public Schools. There is much work to do to dismantle the systemic inequities that have permeated our society, and I am glad to see it is a priority area for the Boston School Committee.”

In December, the Committee engaged in professional development training which was led pro bono by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist, as part of its efforts to examine policies and more deeply understand their impact on our communities of color. The Committee held a public retreat on December 12, featuring a discussion facilitated by A.J. Crabill, Director of Governance of the Council of Great City Schools, to develop tools and metrics to help the School Committee define its mission. Mr. Crabill spoke about the need for governing bodies to maintain a sharp focus on student outcomes and to distinguish between our desired intent and resulting impact. During the six hour retreat, members worked towards shared goals for students, including: kindergarten readiness, grade-level performance, on-time graduation, and career and college readiness.

“In the Boston Public Schools we are committed to fostering a safe, welcoming, inclusive, and antiracist learning and working environment for our students, staff and families,” said Superintendent Brenda Cassellius. “I am incredibly appreciative of the leadership of Chair Oliver-Dávila who has seized this unique opportunity for the School Committee to fully implement the Strategic Plan, and more deeply evaluate its mission to equitably promote and sharpen our accountability on student outcomes. I look forward to taking a deeper dive into this critical work in partnership with my School Committee colleagues.”

An additional two-day public retreat is scheduled for January 21-22, 2021. Mr. Crabill will work with the Committee to strengthen its governance model over the next 12-18 months, as the Committee and the district work to implement the BPS Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan, approved by the Committee in April 2020, and informed by Superintendent Cassellius’s Fall 2019 community tour, will guide the work of the district over the next five years to improve student experiences and accelerate outcomes, close opportunity gaps, and increase instructional quality and rigor. The six commitments outlined in the plan include: (1) Eliminate Opportunity and Achievement Gaps; (2) Accelerate Learning; (3) Amplify All Voices; (4) Expand Opportunity; (5) Cultivate Trust; and (6) Activate Partnerships.

Each commitment is tied to a set of priorities and progress will be measured by clear and measurable goals. The operational plans aspire to lift up and support schools — starting with those most in need — increase academic rigor in all grades across all schools, improve funding equity in the way resources are distributed, and provide deeper engagement with students and families.

“Growing up as a Latina learning English in Boston, I am intimately familiar with the hurt and pain caused by racist practices and ideologies, and I have experienced the barriers to opportunity that our young people encounter every day,” said Chairperson Oliver-Dávila. “There is much challenging work ahead to develop our competencies and closely examine our policies to improve outcomes for our students. I thank my fellow members for their support and their unwavering commitment to our students and families.”

Said O’Neill, “In her short time as Chairperson, Ms. Oliver-Dávila has already led the Committee to re-examine our priorities, as well as how we work with and for our community. Her commitment to engagement is clear from her immediate steps to increase translation services as well as how she is planning for the Committee to focus intensely on improving student outcomes. I deeply value my years spent as a member of this Committee and thank the School Committee Nominating Panel for nominating me, and Mayor Walsh for reappointing me to continue this critical work. I look forward to working alongside Superintendent Cassellius, Chair Oliver-Dávila, and my fellow members in implementing the Strategic Plan to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for our students.”

The seven members of the School Committee are Boston residents appointed by the Mayor of Boston to serve four-year staggered terms.

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