School Comm., City Council Select New School Comm. Members

It was one easy choice and one difficult decision for the School Committee and City Council Monday night as they appointed two new School Committee members.

Claryangeliz Covas was the easy pick for District 4 as the only nominee for the open seat in that district. In District 5, it was a tougher choice, with newcomer Katherine Cabral the choice over former School Committee member Lucia Henriquez by an 8-5-1 vote.

The special joint meeting was necessary because there were no candidates on the ballot for District 4 last November, and in District 5, incumbent Henry Wilson ran unopposed. However Wilson, who is facing legal charges, declined the seat.

Cabral is a Chelsea High School graduate and a science teacher and college access liaison at the Excel Academy Charter Schools.

“Being part of the Chelsea public schools has distilled the lessons of empathy, generosity, and service to others, and that is exactly why I am interested in this position,” said Cabral. “As a recent graduate, I think I bring a fresh and unique perspective.”

School Committee member Jeanette Velez and several councilors questioned Cabral about the stance she would take on funding for charter schools versus public schools. Velez noted that several years ago, the School Committee opposed a ballot question that would have increased the number of charter schools.

“As someone from the Chelsea public schools, and as someone currently working at a charter school, I think it’s important that parents and students have choice over the school that they choose, regardless if it is a public school or a charter school,” said Cabral.

She said that while she understands the need for public schools to secure every dollar they need, she said that parents ultimately know what is best for their child’s education.

Council President Roy Avellaneda praised all the candidates for coming forward for a nomination process that can be intense, and said he was impressed with how Cabral handled the questioning.

“I’m impressed with the fact that you held your ground, and I will echo what my colleague (District 1 Councillor) Todd Taylor siad, it’s okay to have a different opinion on a board, that’s where ideas and conversation come from,” said Avellaneda.

Henriquez recently served on the School Committee for a decade and left her seat after she moved out of the district she represented.

“The reason that I am coming back is because I have lived in this community for many years and I have worked in the community for so many years,” said Henriquez. “I am here for the students and I really care about the education of all the students. It’s very important to me to listen to the parents’ concerns and involve the parents, too.”

Avellaneda questioned Henriquez about the write-in campaign she ran for the District 5 seat, stating he was concerned about her low vote total considering she has run for office in the past.

Henriquez said she was surprised and frustrated at her low vote total, noting that she spent time and money on flyers and door knocking during her campaign. She said she believes there were people who voted for Wilson because they did not believe the child rape charges he is facing.

“It made me angry,” said Henriquez. “We talk a lot about civic participation … but people are apathetic about going to vote and we saw that in this election, not everybody is going to vote.”

Avellaneda said he appreciated Henriquez’s answer and the backstory about the election.

Councillor-At-Large Damali Vidot said she was still upset about the results of the District 5 School Committee election.

“I still bang my head against the wall that an accused pedophile got as many votes as he got,” she said. “The issue here is not (Henriquez), it’s a lack of civic engagement and a lack of education of the electorate.”

District 4 School Committee nominee Covas also graduated from Chelsea High School and has one son who will be going into kindergarten at the Early Learning Center next fall, and another son who will be entering kindergarten the year after that. “My biggest reason for wanting to be part of the School Committee is so I can have a voice and be a little bit of a bridge between parents and what is going on in the school system,” said Covas.

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