Mayor Raymond L. Flynn of Boston has ushered in a new era in school governance for the city by appointing the seven members of a newly constituted school committee.
With little fanfare, the Mayor on Dec. 14 announced his appointees, who were chosen from a list of 32 names submitted by a nominating panel.
The members of the new school committee will have the same formal duties as did the 13 elected members of the previous panel, which was abolished by the state legislature last summer at Mr. Flynn’s urging. (See Education Week, July 31, 1991 .)
Supporters of the mayorally appointed board hope, however, that its members will concentrate on setting educational policy, while leaving day-to-day management of the district to the superintendent.
Critics had faulted the former school board for being unable either to set consistent policy or to balance the district’s budget.
But the legislation creating the appointed panel was bitterly opposed by some minority political and community leaders, who argued that it would disenfranchise members of minority groups.
Mayor Flynn, who had pledged to make his appointments representative of the school district’s racial and ethnic diversity, named two blacks, two Hispanics, an Asian-American, and two whites to the new board. One of the appointees is a woman. The new members are:
- Felix Arroyo, the director of the city government’s personnel department and a parent activist in the schools;
- Anna Mae Cole, an education activist and parent of seven children who have attended Boston schools;
- Robert Culver, the senior vice president and treasurer of Northeastern University;
- George Joe, the executive director of the Chinatown/South Cove Neighborhood Council;
- Paul Parks, a civil engineer and a former state secretary of education; . William Spring, a vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank and one of the founders of the Boston Compact, a nationally known school-business partnership; and
- Louis Velez, the executive director of Roxbury Youthworks, an agency that works with juvenile offenders.
Top Aide Picked
Mr. Flynn also named his director of operations, Robert Consalvo, who has a doctorate in education, as the committee’s executive secretary.
The appointment of a top mayoral aide to the position caught some observers by surprise, said Paula Georges, the executive director of the Citywide Educational Coalition.
The legislation governing creation of the new board provided for an administrative assistant to work with the board, she noted, but that position had not been regarded as a high-profile one. “It wasn’t seen as being a powerful position that would be on a par with the superintendent,” Ms. Georges said.
Several of the appointees to the committee also have close ties to Mr. Flynn, Ms. Georges noted. That has caused some concern, she said, that “the committee may not develop into one that’s really independently making decisions based on educational policy.”
“But I think, on the other hand, that people have a wait-and-see attitude,” Ms. Georges added. “The first thing they would like to see happen would be for the committee to work out a very positive relationship with the superintendent.”
Joan Wallace-Benjamin, the president and chief executive officer of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, said Boston’s African-American community would have preferred to see three blacks on the board.
Ms. Wallace-Benjamin also questioned how much “new energy and thought” the appointees would bring to the schools, noting that many are older than the parents of most Boston schoolchildren.
The organization will be watching Mayor Flynn closely, she said, to see whether “he steps back and allows the committee to do the kind of policy development that they are supposed to do.”
Tackling the Deficit
The new board members, who were to be sworn in Jan. 6, will immediately face decisions on how to reduce the district’s budget, which is $16 million out of balance for the current school year.
At its last meeting, the outgoing committee rejected a plan presented by Superintendent Lois Harrison-Jones for trimming the deficit.
Her plan called for laying off 500 employees, including 160 non-tenured teachers and 140 administrators.
Had it been approved, the plan would have set in motion the biggest round of layoffs in the Boston schools since the early 1980’s, when a state tax-limitation measure resulted in the elimination of more than 1,000 teaching positions.
A version of this article appeared in the January 08, 1992 edition of Education Week as Boston Mayor Names Members to Revamped School Board