Essaibi George meets with teens at Sociedad
Mayoral candidate and at-large City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George described elements of her proposed education policy at a forum Monday afternoon hosted by Sociedad Latina, a nonprofit that works with Latino youth in Boston.
Much of the conversation focused on the positions that Essaibi George, who previously worked as a Boston Public Schools teacher, has proposed surrounding equity in schools and equitable representation of Boston’s Latino population in and out of the classroom.
“Representation is so critically important if we’re going to lead this city as a team, and that goes for my cabinet, the school department, our policing agency, our public health agency. When we think about our large topic areas or departments across the city, those that are doing the work have to reflect the people of Boston,” said Essaibi George.
At the forum, Essaibi George committed to hiring Latino teachers and administrators in proportion to Latino students in Boston Public Schools as well as increasing the number of school counselors to serve students.
Youth leaders with Sociedad Latina asked Essaibi George if she would commit to pushing the BPS administration to hire one counselor for every 200 students, up from the current policy of having one counselor for 300 students in high school. She said she was committed to reaching the narrower goal, but said she felt it was important to meet the existing policy first.
“I want to make sure that we’re doing first that foundation, and setting that floor, and then aiming for more,” Essaibi George said.
Staff and youth leaders from Sociedad Latina also asked Essaibi George about her policy plans regarding ethnic studies in public schools. Essaibi George pointed to her track record on the City Council of supporting a move to implement an ethnic studies program in BPS.
“For me, it’s also important to note that ethnic studies is embedded in the work that we’re doing,” Essaibi George said. “It’s not this stand-alone course offering; it has to be embedded in the work if it’s going to be meaningful for all students across the district.”
Members of Sociedad Latina also asked if she’d advocate for ethnic studies statewide. While she voiced support for a statewide curriculum and committed to advocating for it, she said her first focus would be in Boston.
“Certainly, [statewide advocacy is] an important role for me to play as mayor of the capital city, but I want to be clear that my priority is what’s happening here in Boston and how do we support our kids here and our schools in the curriculum that we’re mandating in our classrooms across all grade levels,” Essaibi George said.
She also discussed a proposal to reconvene the Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) task force in her first 100 days to increase arts and culture opportunities for students. The PILOT program works with large nonprofit institutions like universities, hospitals and museums in the city to collect voluntary payments from institutions that otherwise are exempt from paying taxes.
Essaibi George said she’d work to build opportunities within those institutions for Boston’s kids, especially those from more disadvantaged populations.
“Many of our institutions — both universities and museums in particular — haven’t fulfilled their commitment, both in cash payments and community benefits and experiences,” Essaibi George said. “So, it’s so important for me that we make sure our young people in particular have that exposure.”
She said it is important that opportunities are available not just at the institutions’ physical spaces, but that they’re also bringing experiences to Boston’s many communities.
On issues outside the classroom, members of Sociedad Latina asked Essaibi George about her policies surrounding public safety, especially as it relates to the criminalization of Latino and immigrant populations.
Essaibi George, who has received a majority of police donations in the election, said that the Boston Police Department needs significant reforms around transparency, accountability and diversity, though she didn’t delve into what those reforms would look like. She also said she would implement the recommendations put out by Boston Police Reform Task Force, saying it was a priority which she’d tackle at the very start of her term in office, if elected.
“You’ve seen over this conversation today, that there are certain things that can’t happen day one, there are certain things that will start that process early in the administration, but I have committed, out loud, that starting day one of my administration we will begin to roll out those recommendations as presented by the task force,” Essaibi George said.