Acting Mayor Kim Janey announced Alexandra Oliver-Dávila's resignation this afternoon, the day after School Committee member Lorna Rivera resigned over text messages the two exchanged impugning white parents from West Roxbury.
In a statement, Janey called their text messages "unfortunate," but added that she understands why the two made the comments they did, in the middle of a nine-hour hearing on exam-school admissions after they'd gotten death threats over the issue:
I respect and support the decisions of Alexandra Oliver-Davila and Dr. Lorna Rivera to resign as members of the Boston School Committee. Ms. Oliver-Davila and Dr. Rivera have been dedicated stewards of the committee and passionate advocates for Boston families. Their private remarks, which were recently made public, were unfortunate and unfairly disparaged members of the Boston Public Schools community. As women of color who advocate for racial equity in our schools, I also understand their comments were made in the wake of death threats and unacceptable racist attacks that were frightening, offensive, and painful. As their time on the school committee ends, their work to lift up equity in Boston Public Schools must continue.
In her resignation letter, Oliver-Dávila her life as a girl and teen, getting spit on, threatened with physical violence and being called a 'spic' - and said all those feelings came rushing back during the nine-hour meeting on exam-school admissions:
During the School Committee meeting on October 22, I felt transported back to my youth as members of the public delivered testimony that was in many instances directly racist in nature, comments that were meant to portray students like me, like my daughter, as 'other' or as someone not worthy of the exam school seats, or as taking an exam school seat away from their rightful owners. It was painful. And in the heat of the moment, it caused me to vent by sending inappropriate personal text messages to one of my colleagues. I regrettably allowed myself to do what others have done to me. I failed my own standards in this private exchange. These messages matched the sharpness of what was being delivered via public testimony this night.
Janey thanked the two for their service, then added:
As a Black woman, I know that racism hurts. The rocks and racial slurs thrown at me as a child left a lasting impression. I believe we can only heal the wounds of bigotry when we find the courage to call it out and commit to the shared work of dismantling structural racism.
The shared experience of Ms. Oliver-Davila and Dr. Rivera, and their decision to step down, amplifies the need for meaningful dialog and important work we must do as a city to address racism. Sadly, their departure also leaves a void in Latina leadership on our school committee that I am determined to address.
Equity in Boston Public Schools cannot wait. As Mayor, I am committed to advancing the equity agenda that is now underway. That includes proceeding with a vote on exam school admissions this summer. I am also committed to preserving Latinx representation on our school committee. I am working to immediately begin the application process for new school committee members to lead the next chapter of equity and opportunity in our schools.
Oliver-Dávila, also executive director of Sociedad Latina, had served on the School Committee since 2016. She became chairwoman following Michael Loconto's resignation the day after the same meeting.