Last week Mayor Martin Walsh appointed East Boston resident and East Boston Neighborhood Health Center Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel Ernani DeAraujo to the Boston School Committee
“I am pleased to welcome Ernani DeAraujo to this pivotal role on the Boston School Committee at a time when our work on behalf of the students of Boston has never been more important,” said Walsh. “Ernani has strong roots in his community, and over the course of his career he has worked with an intentional focus on bringing equity and access to diverse Bostonians. He joins a group of leaders on the Boston School Committee committed to best serving the students of the Boston Public Schools.”
The seven-member Boston School Committee is responsible for defining the vision, mission, and goals of the Boston Public Schools; establishing and monitoring the annual operating budget; hiring, managing, and evaluating the Superintendent; and setting and reviewing district policies and practices to support student achievement.
“I’m excited,” said DeAraujo, who lives in Eastie with his wife and two children. “I’ve been thinking about this for a while and then I saw the opportunity open up and I applied. It is a pretty extensive application process. Then you go through an interview process with different educators, administrators, and community people. Then they (the 13-member Citizens Nominating Panel) recommend a slate of candidates to the mayor. At that point it’s the mayor that chooses who he really wants on the committee and so it worked out.”
Historically, DeAraujo will become only the third Eastie resident to serve on the school committee behind former School Committee President John Nucci and Pixie Palladino. However, DeAraujo will become the first appointed member from Eastie since the committee switched from being an elected body to an appointed one.
“I believe I’m the first millennial school committee member,” he said. “I have comfort with remote and virtual technology and I hope I can bring some of that knowledge to the table.”
DeAraujo is a lifelong resident of Eastie where he is very involved in the community through his work at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, and as a former neighborhood liaison for Eastie during the late Mayor Thomas Menino Administration. He is the former President of NOAH Community Development Corporation, where he oversaw the East Boston-based community development corporation and worked to create affordable housing and community building, especially through youth development and environmental justice. He co-founded a program for East Boston High School, named the Mario Umana Public Service Fellowship that works to connect students with internship opportunities in government and summer programs and helps students apply to college.
“In my interviews, I talked a lot about East Boston and everything that is going on here with our mix of different populations,” said DeAraujo. “There is also a kind of the baby boom we are experiencing in Eastie that other parts of the city hasn’t seen. So I think a lot of our needs are different from other parts of the city so I definitely want to highlight that and then work together with the Superintendent and her team to listen and hear what the needs are across the district but in particular, East Boston. The first thing I’m going to do is meet with all East Boston school heads. I want to listen. I’m going to plug into the parent groups, welcoming folks to reach out and hope to speak with community groups or any one that cares about the system and can help. I really want to listen and do whatever I can to improve schools.”
DeAraujo’s experience at EBNHC, which opened up a full service satellite clinic at East Boston High several years ago, has given him insight to the connection between health and academic performance.
“When you focus on closing any achievement gap you focus on bringing resources to where they are needed and that is what EBNHC did at the High School,” said DeAraujo. “If you have kids that are struggling with depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, uncontrolled asthma it’s going to be really hard for them to learn. So that condition feeds into that cycle of absenteeism, poor performance and other academic struggles. I want BPS to do more of that through the Boston Public Health Commission and really address those issues and get more resources like the Health Center did at East Boston High.”
DeAraujo attended Boston Public Schools, including Bradley Elementary, Umana Academy, and Boston Latin School (BLS), and went on to receive a B.A. from Harvard College and a J.D. from Washington and Lee University School of Law in Lexington, VA. In addition, DeAraujo is a Trustee of the BLS Association, Board Secretary for the Center for Community Health Education Research and Service, Inc., and is Vice Chairman of the John William Ward Fellowship, where he helps coordinate public service programs for BLS students.
“I’m grateful to Mayor Walsh for entrusting me with this opportunity to give back to the Boston Public Schools that have so positively impacted my life,” said DeAraujo. “From the Bradley Elementary School in East Boston to the Boston Latin School, BPS gave me a foundation of academic, social, and emotional strength for adulthood. I want to add my efforts on the School Committee to ensure that all BPS students have the opportunities I did. I look forward to working with the Committee, Superintendent Cassellius, and the dedicated staff of BPS to bring kids and staff back to school safely through this pandemic and continue the course of rebuilding and reimagining BPS to spread excellence across all of our kids and families.”
Alexandra Oliver-Dávila, chairperson of the Boston School Committee, said on behalf of the Boston School Committee, she was pleased to welcome DeAraujo as its newest colleague.
“He has strong connections in the community, a demonstrated passion for helping students succeed, and great experience as a graduate of our schools,” she said. “I look forward to working alongside him in service to the students, families, and educators of the Boston Public Schools and commend Mayor Walsh for this appointment and his ongoing commitment to ensure the Boston School Committee represents the diversity of our schools and our city.”
The members of the school committee are Boston residents appointed by the Mayor of Boston to serve four-year staggered terms. Mayor Walsh made these appointments based on a list of candidates recommended by a committee of parents, teachers, principals, and representatives of business and higher education. Under the legislation that established the appointed School Committee, “the Mayor shall strive to appoint individuals who reflect the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity of the city.”