Monday, June 24, 2024

Images of School Committee members José Luis Rojas Villarreal, Rachel Weinstein and Ayesha Wilson, from left, from their campaigns and campaign materials.

School Committee member José Luis Rojas Villarreal has announced that he will run for a second term, with a “pre-kickoff event” Thursday.

Among the committee, fellow first-termer Ayesha Wilson has also declared – all the way back on Dec. 18, via a newsletter – and has received endorsements from Run for Something and a consortium of organizations dedicated to Black political representation called the Collective PAC. Member Rachel Weinstein has referred to a run for “the opportunity to serve when we are not in the midst of a pandemic” as far back as Dec. 9, and in March accepted the support of Boston city councilor Julia Mejia.

Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, who leads the body, announced June 23 that she would run again, though there is no guarantee that a reelection to the council would also return her to the position of mayor.

Most committee members’ campaign websites and social media refer back to their 2019 campaigns, though, even as nomination papers for the Nov. 2 municipal elections become available from the Election Commission on Thursday. The documents are due back by 5 p.m. Aug. 2, the commission said Wednesday. Fifty confirmed signatures qualifies a resident to run. 

Campaigns and elections

The 2019 election saw 11 people run for School Committee (including three of six incumbents) and 23 for council (including eight of nine incumbents), dropping to 22 by the time of balloting. As of Wednesday, the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance didn’t show any challengers for School Committee seats file to fundraise.

Though vice chair Manikka Bowman and members Fred Fantini and David Weinstein may yet declare or simply return nomination papers, on the eve of July the race had three candidates for six seats.  

Among those who have declared, Wilson led in 2019 in terms of the No. 1 votes that play a role in Cambridge’s ranked form of voting: She got 2,692 of the top votes, followed by Weinstein with 2,178 and Rojas with 1,134. There were 19,425 valid ballots cast. Wilson was elected in the third count of ballot distribution, Weinstein in the ninth and Rojas in the 10th. 

Rojas cites contributions

“When I joined the committee in January 2020, few of us imagined how our world would change as we faced the Covid-19 pandemic. I am proud of the work we have done as a community and as a district over the last year and a half,” Rojas said Wednesday.

He pointed voters to his work ensuring there were Covid-related expenses in the district’s budget and to his role as leader of the Building & Grounds Subcommittee. Its adoption of a safety and facilities manual enabled a reopening of schools in the fall for the district’s youngest learners and other high-need students, he said.

Rojas also mentioned adding restorative justice to the governance of the School Committee and its code of ethics – a lack that some have called out as contributing to a committee controversy that began in the previous term. “My hope is to get these changes approved and introduced before the end of my term,” Rojas said.

There was more work to come before November balloting, Rojas said, including working with an interim superintendent to heal the academic and socio-emotional effects of the pandemic and developing plans to “continue to bridge the opportunity gaps of our students by holding all students to high standards and providing them with the educational tools necessary to meet them.”

Rojas’ pre-kickoff event piggybacks off of an “open driveway” event with Patty Nolan, a council candidate for reelection. It takes place from 6:30 to 7:30  p.m. Thursday at her 184 Huron Ave., Observatory Hill, home, according to a Wednesday email.