Rivera resigns school panel seat; critical text messages cited

Lorna Rivera resigned from Boston’s school last Friday after critical text messages she exchanged with another committee member were made public.

According the Boston Globe, Rivera, a sociologist, and Alexandra Oliver-Dávila privately criticized white parents from West Roxbury in text messages during the lengthy public debate over exam school admissions last fall.

The texts — somehow leaked after being withheld from the Globe’s initial public-records request — were sent during the nine-hour meeting last October where the committee voted to suspend the test requirement at Boston’s three selective “exam schools” for one year.

While many commenters applauded the proposal, which instead weighed applicants’ grades and home ZIP codes, dozens of largely white and Asian parents pushed back, saying it hurt their children’s chances of admission and undermined the exam schools’ reputation for academic excellence. 

During the same meeting where former committee chair Michael Loconto was caught mocking Asian commenters’ names, Rivera and Oliver-Dávila — both Latina — were reportedly sending messages back and forth, faulting “Westie whites” for being “delusional.” Neither Rivera nor Oliver-Dávila — now the committee’s chair — responded to multiple requests for comment.

Some advocates said on Monday that they will miss Rivera’s independent streak, and that her departure highlights the need for a more accountable, democratic school committee.

Ruby Reyes, the executive director of the advocacy group Boston Education Justice Alliance, said Rivera represents a “huge loss” for the committee, which is appointed by the mayor and tends toward unanimity bordering on a rubber stamp policy.

“She was like the one lonely ranger, who was speaking about important [problems] — but actually voting against them,” Reyes said. Even in the text messages, Reyes argued, Rivera was speaking to real, “racist political structures” in some of Boston’s neighborhoods.

Rivera was one of two members to vote against the decision to give green space outside the McCormack School on Columbia Point to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester last August.

Rivera, a BPS parent, told Globe columnist Marcela García that she faced harassment from the public — and at least one “credible threat” — during her final months on the committee.

In a statement, BPS superintendent Brenda Cassellius thanked Rivera for her service and said she respected her decision to resign “given the personal challenges and hardships she has shared.”

Cassellius said that the texts between Rivera and Oliver-Dávila were “disappointing and hurtful to the Boston Public Schools community, and to our larger efforts to combat racism in all forms.”

City Councillor and mayoral candidate Annissa Essaibi George said she was “disappointed” by the exchange. And state Rep. Ed Coppinger, who represents West Roxbury, called on Oliver-Dávila to resign, saying, “our school department should not be led by individuals who denigrate any part of the rich diversity in our city and our neighborhoods.”