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Mayor Janey names Lorena Lopera and Rafaela Polanco Garcia to Boston School Committee

The two new members were sworn-in to serve Boston’s diverse public school district.

Today, 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. Lopera is also a BPS parent and Executive Director of Latinos for Education. Mayor 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 Mayor 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.”

“On behalf of the school committee, I am pleased to welcome Ms. Rafaela Polanco Garcia and Ms. Lorena Lopera as our newest colleagues and thank them both for their commitment to the children and families of Boston and to serving on this committee,” said Boston School Committee Chair Jeri Robinson. “As both parents in the Boston Public Schools and community activists, their voice and expertise will be welcome additions as we work to continue to create true involvement of the multicultural communities across the city and commend Mayor Janey for their appointment.”

“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 Roxbury-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.

“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. 

“REAL training, which is also being provided to all City of Boston staff, will be a first step toward setting new rules of engagement among School Committee members, families and all those with a stake in our schools,” said Janey.

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 en Acción, 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!”

"These are two very thoughtful choices by Acting Mayor Janey that ensure that new voices and new perspectives are represented on the School Committee,” said John Riordan, the Boston Municipal Research Bureau representative on the School Committee Nominating Panel. “In Ms. Polanco Garcia, she’s selected a BPS parent who has been a champion of parent engagement and has the ability to reach parents who may not feel connected to the school system. In Ms. Lopera, she’s selected a BPS parent and longtime advocate who will bring important experience in pushing the school system to make continued improvements." 

“I am thrilled by Mayor Janey's nominations of Rafaela Polanco Garcia and Lorena Lopera to the Boston School Committee. Both are dedicated Latina leaders who are parents with young children in BPS, and have been long-standing advocates for educator diversity and education equity and excellence,” said Betty Francisco, Chief Legal Advisor for Compass Working Capital, a Non-profit that assists low-income families with finances. “Rafaela reflects the unique experience of immigrant families who depend on our school system for culturally and linguistically competent services. Through her work at Latinos for Education, Lorena has been a leading voice on educator diversity and leadership development. They make a powerful combination and will bring important perspectives that reflect the diversity of the Latino families in BPS.”  

“I am ecstatic about the news of Lorena Lopera and Rafaela Polanco Garcia ascending to the Boston School Committee, and I imagine Boston’s Latino community rejoices, as well,” said Samuel Acevedo, executive director of the Boston Higher Education Resource Center. “The loss of Alex Oliver-Dávila and Lorna Rivera from the BSC was inestimable. But succeeding them are a set of Latinas who are both BPS parents, and have both been – for years - tireless advocates for our community’s children. Lorena y Rafaela: Dios las bendiga. ¡Les deseamos todo éxito!”

The new members will attend their first School Committee meeting on August 4, 2021.  

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