Mayor: ‘Shame on Us’ For Seating All-Anglo Supt. Screening Committee

Gary Ortiz (pictured with his daughter).

As the School Committee prepared to vote on the composition of the city’s superintendent screening committee, member Scott W. Wood Jr. asked to increase the size of the panel by one to remedy an oversight and protect the city from legal action.

“One thing we really missed, we did not have on this list, a member of the Hispanic/Latino community,” Wood said “We have 18 white individuals; a majority of our kindergartners this year are non-white.”

Wood guaranteed his colleagues that the School Committee would face a complaint filed with the state Commission Against Discrimination if it didn’t act.

“I’m not sure the message it sends if we don’t add somebody,” Wood said.

He suggested the committee appoint Gary Ortiz, whom he identified as a downtown businessman, to represent the city’s Latino community. Wood did not mention that Ortiz served as co-manager of Woods’ last school board race, in charge of field operations.

While the School Committee ultimately supported Wood’s idea and Ortiz’s appointment, some members criticized the last-minute change and the tenor of the argument behind it.

Member Sven A. Amirian said Woods’ repeated warnings virtually guaranteed an MCAD complaint.

“This has been grossly mishandled, and I wish to state my displeasure for the record,” Amirian said. “It smacks of disorganization and having a knee-jerk reaction to something that comes up.”

The procedure for assembling the committee was designed to result in a diverse panel. Each School Committee member selected a community member to serve, and the school community chose three teachers (one each from the elementary, middle and high schools), a representative of the district’s central office, a member of the Special Education staff, a school administrator, a member of the school support staff and a high school student.

School Committee members Gail M. Sullivan, Wood and Mayor James J. Fiorentini also are members.

Fiorentini expressed regret at the committee’s lack of diversity.

“Shame on us that none of us nominated someone from the Latino community,” Fiorentini said, noting that 15 percent of the city’s residents are Hispanic. At Consentino School, 45 percent of the students are of Hispanic heritage, the mayor said.

Member Maura L. Ryan-Ciardiello agreed. “I was ashamed to see there was nobody on there,” she said.

Sullivan warned that altering the make-up of the screening committee at this point in the process could threaten the stability of the candidate pool and possibly delay candidate interviews, which are scheduled to begin Tuesday and continue for several days, with two interviews during each session.

The screening committee is expected to select a pool of three to five finalists on Feb. 5.