Acting Mayor Kim Janey announced the appointment of Rafaela Polanco Garcia and Lorena Lopera to the Boston School Committee. The move follows her commitment in June to fill two vacancies and move the committee forward with greater equity, opportunity and accountability.
Polanco Garcia is a Boston Public Schools (BPS) parent and serves as Director of Parent Engagement and Organizing at St. Stephen’s Youth Programs in the South End.
Lopera is also a BPS parent and Executive Director of Latinos for Education. Janey selected Polanco Garcia and Lopera from a slate of candidates presented by the Boston School Committee Nominating Panel, which worked independently to conduct the public application and interview process that attracted 23 applicants. Both women were sworn-in by Boston City Clerk Maureen Feeney right before the mayor’s announcement.
“Ms. Polanco Garcia and Ms. Lopera bring incredible depth of knowledge and lived experience to the Boston School Committee,” said Janey. “I am thrilled to appoint these talented new committee members, who represent so many of the residents in our city. They will both help to fill the pages to this new chapter of equity and opportunity for Boston Public Schools students and families.”
“I am thrilled to welcome Ms. Lopera and Ms. Polanco Garcia as our newest members on the Boston School Committee. In the last year, the Committee and I have worked together to pass important policies around student information sharing, retention, grading, graduation standards, and exam school admissions,” said Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius. “We remain committed to closing opportunity gaps and examining current and future BPS policies through an antiracist lens to advance student outcomes. I know that both Ms. Lopera and Ms. Polanco Garcia join us with the professional experience and community perspective necessary to contribute positively and effectively to our shared goals of equity, opportunity and excellence for every BPS student.”
Polanco Garcia is an immigrant who lives in public housing in South Boston and has a background in law and bilingual advocacy. Her activism on behalf of the Latinx community in education includes working on the ‘No on 2’ campaign in 2016, helping to pass a sanctuary schools resolution, and passing the Student Opportunity Act. Since 2015, she has served as the Director of Parent Engagement and Organizing at St. Stephen’s Youth Programs in the South End.
“As an Immigrant from the Dominican Republic, it is a great honor for me to represent English Language Learner families on the Boston School Committee,” said Polanco Garcia. “As a single mother of a Boston Public Schools student, I feel committed to my community. I know that many families will be able to identify with me and together we will be a voice in the school district.”
Lopera is a Jamaica Plain resident and veteran of local organizations focused on expanding educational access for Latinx youth and students of color, including Mission Hill-based Sociedad Latina, La Vida, Inc., and Building Excellent Schools, as well as national organizations such as City Year and the Posse Foundation. Most recently, she was the Executive Director at Latinos for Education, New England, the first Latino-founded and led national organization dedicated solely to creating leadership pathways for Latinos in education. She is currently co-chair of the Hurley K-8 School Site Council in the South End.
“My own educational experience and my experience as a Boston Public Schools parent is what will guide my decisions on the Boston School Committee,” said Lopera. “I’m honored by this opportunity, and ready to roll up my sleeves to co-design solutions with families, educators, and community members so all students within Boston can succeed.”
In addition to the member appointments, Mayor Janey announced plans to extend Racial Equity and Leadership (REAL) training to all members of the Boston School Committee.
More than 40 percent of Boston Public Schools students identify as Latinx, while approximately 10 percent of enrolled students live in Boston Housing Authority developments. Mayor Janey’s appointments expand representation for these communities and were met with enthusiasm and support from community stakeholders.
“I am thrilled to learn about Mayor Janey’s selection of Lorena Lopera and Rafaela Polanco Garcia as members of the Boston School Committee,” said Dr. Vanessa Calderón-Rosada, chief executive officer of Inquilinos Boricuas enAcción, a corporation dedicated to empowering individuals and community development. “Both Lorena and Rafaela bring an unwavering commitment to equity in Boston Public Schools, both as parents and as advocates; and as immigrants, both of them will bring an important perspective to the School Committee deliberations. I am grateful to Mayor Janey for bringing these two strong Latina leaders to the Committee!”
The new members will attend their first School Committee meeting on August 4.