State Ed Chief "nervous" about Boston school committee stability

Voicing concerns with vacancies and turnover on the Boston School Committee, Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley on Tuesday floated the idea of "temporarily freezing" some federal funding bound for the state's largest district.

"I am extremely concerned about what's transpired on that school committee," Riley said during a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting. "They've lost four members this year, two of whom were board chairs, and as a state we have a responsibility to kind of oversee what's happening there, and the fact that there's nearly half a billion dollars — I think it's $430 million that are coming in ESSER funding — makes me nervous about what's happening in Boston."

Riley was responding to a question from board member Paymon Rouhanifard, who noted the recent resignations of two of seven Boston School Committee members and asked how state officials are thinking about the district. The commissioner said he thinks his team "will be exploring the possibility of maybe temporarily freezing" the second and third rounds of money from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, known as ESSER.

"I wouldn't want to freeze ESSER I, though, because I think we've got to make sure the district has the funds it needs to open successfully, particularly around health and safety," he said. "We're going to explore it, but I also want to see this board stabilized. This is no reflection on the acting mayor, certainly, she inherited this issue."

He said he thinks it's "fair to question how such a diminished board could make such a substantial decision" about deploying the funds. Mayor Kim Janey announced last week that a Citizens Nominating Panel would accept applications for the two school committee seats through July 8.