Reporter's Notebook: Baker seeks three elected slots on school committee

Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Jan. 16, 2013

The city’s School Committee would be converted into a hybrid group of elected and appointed officials, under a bill District 3 Councillor Frank Baker filed this week.

The home rule petition splits the panel into a group of four mayorally appointed members and three members elected by a citywide vote. The petition would need the approval of the City Council and the mayor, a most unlikely event, before being sent to the Legislature.

Under the set-up in place since 1992, all seven members of the school panel are appointed by the mayor. A nonbinding referendum in 1989 showed broad support for an appointed committee instead of the 13-member elected body that existed then, nine of whom were elected by district vote and four at-large, much like the City Council. With the referendum as an impetus, then-Mayor Ray Flynn pushed for the change to a mayorally appointed council.

Baker said he is seeking to add independence to the panel, noting that he had heard calls for elected members during his 2011 campaign for the District 3 Council seat. “I think the way I have it filed is a feasible way,” he said, but added that he’s open to changes.

Talk of a hybrid School Committee surfaced in 2010 after outcries over City Hall’s plan to close some schools and merge others. The head of the Boston Teachers Union, Richard Stutman, told the Reporter then that a hybrid model would mean a “return to sanity and participatory democracy.”

Meg Campbell, a Dorchester resident who serves on the current School Committee, said an elected school committee could become a “political stepping-stone.” Speaking of the current set-up in an interview with the Reporter after she was appointed in 2012, she said, “I think it works. It’s kind of like – do you want an elected hospital committee, do you want an elected police committee? I think it gets kind of messy.”

Capuano says no to special Senate election
Congressman Michael Capuano (D-Somerville) said on Tuesday that he will not be a candidate in the special US Senate election that is expected to take place later this year, after the confirmation of John Kerry as Secretary of State.

“After careful consideration, I have decided not to enter the race for US Senate,” Capuano said in a statement. “Instead, I look forward to focusing on the important issues facing the new Congress. My current work in the House and whatever opportunities the future may hold, afford me the greatest honor of my life, fighting for the Citizens of the Commonwealth.”

Capuano’s decision follows that of state Sen. Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield) to also take a pass on the special election. Downing said as he was weighing a run and had received positive feedback from his friends, family, and colleagues. “I wish their faith in me was enough to sustain a campaign, but I know that every consideration – especially financial – must be made before a race of this type is undertaken,” he said in his own statement. “After considering every aspect of a possible campaign, I have determined that I will not be a candidate for the US Senate in the upcoming special election.”

That leaves Congressman Ed Markey (D-Malden) as the only candidate to formally announce a campaign, and Congressman Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston) as one of the few serious candidates still weighing a campaign.

Former Congressman Barney Frank, who desires the interim appointment, a temporary slot while the Senate special election plays out, backed Markey last week on an MSNBC show.

Lawrence O’Donnell, a Dorchester native, had the Newton Democrat on his show, “The Last Word,” last week. O’Donnell was supportive of Frank and lashed out at a top adviser to US Sen. Elizabeth Warren for floating other candidates for the interim slot, like former Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall and Arthur Bernard, a former chief of staff to Gov. Deval Patrick. O’Donnell called Doug Rubin, a Patrick adviser, an “abject buffoon” for floating candidates without Capitol Hill experience. Rubin responded on Twitter, saying, “I’ve been called a lot worse!”

Former Menino aide Kelly weighing at-large Council run
A former City Hall aide is mulling a run for one of the City Council’s four at-large seats. “I am considering all of my options but I haven’t made any sort of concrete decision yet,” said Jack Kelly, who served as Mayor Thomas Menino’s neighborhood liaison in Charlestown. Kelly said there is a need for more people at the state and city level talking about comprehensive substance abuse programs.

Currently working at Massachusetts General Hospital as a community relations manager, Kelly is a member of the Charlestown Neighborhood Watch and the Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition. He has also written for and, according to his LinkedIn profile, served as an extra in the Ben Affleck movie, “The Town.”

He left his City Hall job in 2011, after serving for five years. He started at MGH last October.

The four City Council incumbents include City Council President Stephen Murphy, and Councillors Ayanna Pressley, Felix Arroyo, and John Connolly. Michelle Wu, a South End resident and former Elizabeth Warren campaign aide, said in December that she is running for one of the four seats.

Applications for nomination papers at the Elections Department will be available on April 17. Contenders must pick up 1,500 voter signatures to make it onto the at-large portion of the ballot.

Uphams Corner’s DePina promoted in Arroyo’s office
Joy DePina, an Uphams Corner resident, is moving up in City Councillor At-Large Felix Arroyo’s office. She has been promoted to deputy chief of staff, the councillor said last week. DePina has been on Arroyo’s staff since he started at City Hall in 2010, when she was named director of constituent services. She served as his deputy campaign manager in his 2009 run for at-large and previously worked as a health care organizer for Northeast Action.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at Email us at and follow us on Twitter: @LitDrop and @gintautasd.


Richard Stutman is correct, this plan to elect some committee members would return the sanity and participatory democracy to the Boston School Committee. Personally, I think ALL Boston School Committee members should be elected! Look at the mess the appointed school committee has created these last 20 years at the bequest of Mayor Menino.

A "Unified School District" model would have strengthen our school system, but instead of correcting the 40 years of inequities in our traditional public schools, in 1993, Mayor Menino, through his "appointed school committee," allowed the Boston Public Schools to adopt a "portfolio of schools" model, which has decimated our traditional schools. These charter schools are not level funded by the students they serve, but by the "average" the sending district spends on all its students taking away even more money! This would have NEVER happened with an Elected School Committee!

Let me explain, to educate a regular ed student in BPS cost $11,558. However, when you add the cost of all the BPS Special Ed & Ell students the cost averages out to $14,704! Charter Schools are paid the "average" $14,704. even though their population of students is mostly regular ed, and in no way reflects the demographic of the BPS! What a windfall for these charter schools! So not only do charters not service our SPED or ELL students, they legally swindle BPS out of $3,146+ per student! That money comes out of the budgets of traditional BPS schools that are servicing Boston's neediest children! Elected School Committee would NEVER have allowed that! If I were a BPS parent of a SPED student I would be thinking of a class action lawsuit. $3,146 x 12 years = $37,752. is a lot of services your child didn’t get for 12 years at a traditional BPS school!

BPS has to pay for charter school transportation CITYWIDE! The BPS reports on their own site, "State law requires BPS to drive charter school students to their schools even if they are outside their home zone, which is a much higher level of service than is provided to most students in BPS! Transportation costs are expected to rise by $2.6 million in FY13 and $20.3 million in FY14 as the number of charter school students in Boston increases."*

The appointed school committee allowed 23 Charters to saturate Boston and located most of them are located in the East Zone neighborhoods of Dorchester, Hyde Park, Mattapan, Roslindale and Roxbury! Turning the remaining traditional schools into dumping grounds for SPED, ELL, and students found "not to be the right fit" (read behavior problems) for these segregation academy charter schools! It has made it impossible to return to neighborhood schools in the East Zone. The MCAS scores of the children attending a school are the data that will determine if it is a "quality school." The “data” that the External Advisory Committee (EAC) has yet to aggregate, or make public, is the MCAS Data by neighborhood! Now, I also want to see the MCAS data aggregated by students attending charter schools living in those East Zone neighborhoods!

The appointed school committee allowed Mayor Menino and Dr. Johnson to systematically un-resource traditional BPS schools (remember the Marshall School and the 12 closed schools) causing them to fail. The appointed school committee gave away the Gavin School to Unlocking Potential, an educational management organization (EMO), UP receives $600,000. from BPS just to "manage" 476 kids! The BPS removed their multi-handicapped students to citywide status and “didn't purchase seats” for their Vietnamese SEI students when UP took over.

You have to ask, if outsourcing of SPED & ELL was done for the Gavin School, would they have been underperforming! Another $500,000, is earmarked to UP to manage the Marshall School! This is quite a bit of money considering Boston pays Dr. Johnson $323,222. and she "manages" 57,000 students! Parents have no decision making voice at these charter schools, like they do at BPS traditional schools, an Elected School Committee would have NEVER tolerated that!

It’s unfortunate that Meg Campbell feels uncomfortable with messiness. That happens when groups are invested! All voices must be heard, and all ideas must be entertained; ensuring that the interests of all individuals and groups in the Boston Public Schools are served. It’s not what’s happening now, with a committee of appointed bobble-heads saying yes to Mayor Menino!

Strong decision-making requires analysis, the balancing of needs and concerns, and the ability to see the LONG-TERM IMPLICATIONS OF AN ACTION that doesn't happen when people are "appointed." The City of Boston needs to return to a fully Elected School Committee!