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Janey Appoints Two Latina Members To Boston School Committee

The swearing in two new members to the Boston School Committee Rafaela Polanco Garcia and Lorena Lopera at City Hall. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The swearing in two new members to the Boston School Committee Rafaela Polanco Garcia and Lorena Lopera at City Hall. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Acting Mayor Kim Janey has appointed two immigrant, Spanish-speaking women to fill temporary vacancies on the Boston School Committee.

As she swore in Lorena Lopera and Rafaela Polanco Garcia on Thursday afternoon, Janey said the two women are ideally situated to help Boston Public Schools, with over 40% Latino enrollment, “write [a] next chapter” of equity and inclusion.

The appointments could also turn the page on a turbulent period on the committee, with four resignations — three amid scandal — in the past six months.

Lopera, who gave remarks first in Spanish, then in English, came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant from Colombia. She’s now the executive director of Latinos for Education.

Polanco is an even more recent arrival. She came to Boston from the Dominican Republic six years ago, as “an immigrant single mom — homeless, at first.”

Polanco, whose primary language is Spanish, said it “wasn’t easy” adjusting — and breaking through language barriers — as she advocated for her son at the Blackstone School in the South End. But she went on to be elected co-chair of that school’s site council, and joined political fights against the expansion of charter schools and in support of increased funding.


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Lopera and Polanco fill the seats vacated by former chair Alex Oliver-Dàvila and Lorna Rivera, both of whom resigned after their texts critical of white parents from West Roxbury appeared in the press.

The two new appointees didn’t address the scandal, but pledged to fight for parents.

Janey acknowledged that the city and district will have to “work very hard” to accommodate its first-ever member to speak primarily Spanish. But she placed that work in the context of more language justice districtwide.

She also said she will extend the city's race equity and leadership training to all school committee members as part of an effort to reset the "rules of engagement" between members and parents after the past year's tensions.

While Janey is acting mayor, these appointments are not permanent. If she is not elected mayor in November, the members would need to be renewed or reappointed by her elected successor in the role.

Max Larkin Twitter Reporter, Edify
Max Larkin is a multimedia reporter for Edify, WBUR's education vertical.

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