New School Committee Member Appointed to finish Alisa's School Committee term

On April 27, 2007 the Amherst Select Board and Amherst School Committee met in Joint Session to choose someone to finish the School Committee term left open when I resigned due to my election to the Amherst Select Board. The appointed person serves from the time they get sworn in until the next election, under Mass General Laws. That person is Chrystel Romero, who also ran in the 2007 annual election.

Here is the newspaper coverage of the meetings where the new School Committee member was selected.

Daily Hampshire Gazette, Saturday April 28, 2007

School Committee member is chosen; Brighty asked to resign
By MARY CAREY Staff Writer

AMHERST - A joint panel of School Committee and Select Board members voted 5-4 to appoint Chrystel Romero to a vacant position on the committee at a meeting that began with calls for the resignation of the Regional School Committee chairwoman.

Four candidates were in the running: Romero, John Foy Lord and Catherine Sanderson, who both received no votes, and Yaniris Fernandez, who got four.

The meeting began with Elaine Brighty, chairwoman of the Regional School Committee, announcing that she had contacted four Select Board members with information about Romero that she thought they should know. Acting town attorney Gary Brackett, as well as Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Pepyne, determined that it was not a violation of the Open Meeting Law to do so, Brighty said.

But Select Board members Anne Awad and Hwei-Ling Greeney said they were "very disturbed" by Brighty's calls divulging an alleged, unspecified shortcoming in Romero's qualifications.

Awad said she contacted the state Ethics Commission, because she thinks Brighty potentially violated the privacy of a candidate who had no opportunity to respond to the allegations.

Greeney said of Brighty, "I have lost my confidence and trust in her ability to serve. ... I must ask her for her resignation."

The Select Board and School Committee had convened to appoint a committee member to succeed Alisa Brewer, a former member of the School Committee who won a seat on the Select Board on March 27.

Romero ran for School Committee in the same election, losing by 15 votes to Kathleen Anderson. Members of the joint panel who voted for her on Friday, including Anderson, said one of the reasons was that Romero had mounted a good campaign.

Romero said the voters had spoken on election day, when she was almost elected. As for what Brighty might have said about her qualifications to Select Board members, Romero said, "I think that would probably be a better question to address to Elaine."

Brighty did not make public what that was.

The other panel members who voted for Romero - Greeney, Awad and Select Board members Gerald Weiss and Robert Kusner - said that Romero, a single mother and renter, comes from a socioeconomic class that is underrepresented on the School Committee. They expressed their confidence that she would make some families feel more comfortable, because they would have a voice on the committee.

Brewer, Brighty and Amherst School Committee members Andrew Churchill and Sonia Correa-Pope voted for Fernandez, saying that she would be an asset to the panel because of her close involvement in Crocker Farm Elementary School.

More than 50 percent of Crocker Farm students are considered to be living in poverty, according to federal standards, and it has been identified by the state as being a school in need of improvement.

Fernandez, the daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants who never went to high school, defended her doctoral dissertation in education hours before Friday's meeting. She has worked with the A Better Chance program, Amherst Educational Foundation and Crocker Farm School Governance Council, among a long list of other qualifications.

Sunday Republican, Sunday April 29, 2007

Amherst school board post filled

AMHERST - She lost the general election by 15 votes, but on Friday night Chrystel D. Romero was elected to the School Committee in a joint Select Board and School Committee vote.

Romero, who is of Puerto Rican descent, said she was representing the voices of single mothers and renters as well as people of color.

The two panels met to elect a replacement for Alisa V. Brewer, who resigned from the committee a week after winning a seat on the Select Board.

Four applied for the position and Romero won in a 5-to-4 vote with Yaniris M. Fernandez receiving the other four votes. Fernandez is the assistant dean of faculty at Hampshire College.

Others seeking the seat were John Foy Lord, a lawyer, and Catherine D. Anderson, an Amherst College psychology professor.

The meeting also included discussion about the actions of School Committee member Elaine L. Brighty in connection with the filling of the board vacancy.

She read a statement disclosing that she had informally talked to four Select Board members separately by telephone to reveal some information about Romero, who had worked in town schools.

The district attorney's office had been asked about whether that violated the Open Meeting Law, Brighty said but was told it constituted no violation.

Still, Select Board members were upset with the calls, and member Hwei-Ling T. Greeney said that Brighty violated a code of ethics and should resign.

Greeney also raised concerns about whether the members could elect a new committee member fairly and that the Ethics Commission has been asked to look into the matter.

But after about 30 minutes of discussion, town counsel advised the board and committee they could proceed with the election.