Kelly Garcia was unanimously selected as the new School Committee Chairperson during the Committee’s first meeting of the year last Thursday, Jan. 2.
The energetic District 7 representative was nominated by the outgoing Chairperson, District 2 representative Jeanette Velez.
“I’m honored to be here and I want to wish everyone a happy new year,” Garcia said during brief remarks before taking the center seat in the City Council chambers.
Garcia taking over the chair wasn’t the only noticeable change during the meeting.
All nine members of the School Committee were sworn in by City Clerk Jeanette Citron White, including new member Roberto Jimenez-Rivera, who takes over the At-Large seat that was held by departing member Frank DePatto.
It was also the first official meeting with Supt. Almudena ‘Almi’ Abeyta taking over the reins from Mary Bourque. Abeyta had been working in the district since September with the title of superintendent-elect alongside Bourque.
“I am honored to be your superintendent,” said Abeyta. “I have listened and learned from you for five months now. There is so much happening in the Chelsea schools.”
While the selection of the chairperson went off without a hitch, it was a closer race for vice-chair, as longtime Committeewoman Rosemarie Carlisle bested District 3 representative Marisol Santiago 5-4 on the second go-round of voting.
Carlisle was nominated by District 5 representative Henry Wilson, and Santiago by Rivera.
During the first round of voting, Carlisle voted present, while Santiago cast a vote for herself, resulting in a 4-4-1 deadlock. On the second round of voting, Carlisle cast the deciding vote for herself.
“I didn’t realize I could vote for myself,” Carlisle said.
In other votes, Jimenez was selected as the School Committee’s representative to the City Council, and Wilson was selected as the representative to the Shore Educational Collaborative.
With the procedural business taken care of, the business portion of the first Committee meeting of the year was dispensed of quickly.
Assistant Superintendent Sarah Kent presented the district’s latest enrollment report. Of particular note, she said, is that the district’s mobility rate, which tracks the number of students entering and leaving the district since the beginning of the school year, is down from where it was last year, a good sign for the district. That rate is 12.2 percent, or 765 students who have transferred in or out, since Oct. 1. Kent said that number is down a point and a half from last year at this time.
The School Committee also approved accepting $130,000 from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for the Teacher Diversification Pilot Program. The program is designed to support local school district efforts to strengthen and diversify the workforce by enhancing existing teacher recruitment and retention programs.