Evelyn Gomez Selected To Fill Vacant School Committee Seat

Photo: Evelyn Gomez, newly-appointed member of the Belmont School Committee.

Evelyn Garcia Gomez, a relative newcomer to Belmont, was named to the School Committee Thursday, June 25, to fill the final nine months of the term of Susan Burgess-Cox who resigned in April.

An engineer and educator with degrees from MIT, Harvard and UCLA, Gomez – who arrived in Belmont in 2017 – is believed to be the first Person Of Color to serve on the Belmont School Committee.

“I think my being selected for the School Committee represents that Belmont is willing to put in the work to have a truly inclusive and equitable town,” said Gomez in an email to the Belmontonian after she was voted to the board on the third ballot by a joint meeting of the Select Board and School Committee. The other finalists included Meghan Moriarty, Jeffrey Liberty, Seeth Burtner, and Vicki Amalfitano.

Gomez’ background includes teaching math and physics for nearly two years in California and working as an adjunct associate professor at Pasadena City College. She also holds teaching credentials for high school math in California and Massachusetts.

“I want to use this time of COVID-19 to reimagine what education can be because, while this current system of AP classes and standardized testing worked for me, it certainly didn’t work for many of my classmates or my students,” said Gomez, who lives with her two young children who have yet to enter the school system.

(Editor’s note: The complete interview with Gomez is at the bottom of the article)

Gomez arrives as the school district and committee are juggling a pair of daunting issues: opening schools in September during a continued COVID-19 pandemic and a looming budgetary gap that could result in massive layoffs.

“This is like parachuting on the deck of a ship to steer it through a really big storm,” said the Select Board’s Adam Dash. In responding to a question from the joint committee, Gomez said after speaking to School Committee Chair Andrea Prestwich, she has an understanding “about the time commitment and how hard it is to do this job.” While acknowledging she has her hands full with two small children, her flexible schedule allows being on the committee “this would be one of my top priorities and I don’t do anything at 50 percent.”

Gomez spoke poignantly how her inclusion to the committee would bring diversity to the group and how that “would be a blessing, and it makes our town stronger.”

Gomez is currently part of the education staff of the Lemelson-MIT Program which recognizes emerging collegiate inventors whose inventions could impact important sectors of the global economy. Before coming to Boston, Gomez was executive director of LA-based DIY Girls whose mission is to increase women’s and girls’ interest in technology, engineering, and making through innovative educational experiences.

Born and raised in the northeast San Fernando Valley, a predominately Hispanic region of Los Angeles, Gomez was her class valedictorian at San Fernando High School in Los Angeles.

Gomez matriculated at MIT where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. She received a Master of Science in the same degree from UCLA. Gomez also holds a Master of Education in secondary education from Harvard.

Interview with newly-appointed School Committee member Evelyn Gomez.

Belmontonian: You said just after being selected that you were not expecting to be named. Why do you think you were selected?

Gomez: Timing is everything. At this moment, in this country, and in this town, I think we are all realizing that there is a lot of work to do if we truly want to strive for “a more perfect union.” We are at the intersection of so many monumental events: Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, and lacking trust in our public entities. In this particular moment, many white people are starting to examine their privilege and implicit biases, understand what it really means to be a Person of Color in this country, and how our reality is vastly different than theirs. As I said during the meeting, I have a lot of internalized biases and anxieties about being a minority, but I am learning to overcome those anxieties thanks to anti-racist literature by Ibram X. Kendi, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and so many others. They are teaching me how to have the courage to speak openly about my identity and experiences as a woman of color, as a daughter of immigrants, as an English Language Learner, and how these experiences bring value to my community. 

Belmont has a lot of work to do, but I think my being selected for the School Committee represents that Belmont is willing to put in the work to have a truly inclusive and equitable town. 

Belmontonian: The Select Board’s Adam Dash said with all that is happening in education during the COVID-19 pandemic and the budget issues the town and schools are about to face coming onto the committee is like parachuting on the deck of a ship to steer it through a really big storm. What do you see your role in helping to steer this ship?

Gomez: It’s been said that we need to “scrap the blueprint and revolutionize this dangerously broken system.” As an educator, I think we need to use this forced disruption in the education system to stop and reflect on what we truly value in education and what students value. I want to use this time of COVID-19 to reimagine what education can be because, while this current system of AP classes and standardized testing worked for me, it certainly didn’t work for many of my classmates or my students. Belmont can lead to integrating novel and innovative approaches to schooling that work better for teachers, parents, and students than the old system. Let’s not waste this opportunity in the disruption of schooling, let’s use it as a time to strategically think about what we value in education and what we really want our kids to learn. 

Belmontonian: I believe – although I will have to ask the Town Clerk to confirm this – that you are the first Person of Color to be a member of the School Committee. What in your life’s experience and background will you bring to the committee that it may not have currently? 

Gomez: I have over a decade of experience working with students of color and can relate to their experiences and struggles because I once was one. More importantly, my experience as a Person of Color and a teacher to students of color has forced me to be creative in the ways that I reach my students. I have seen firsthand how empowering students to use their lived experiences to solve problems in their own community engages students in a meaningful and authentic way. While this is true for all students, I believe it is especially true for students of color and women. In 2017, Belmont Public Schools presented findings of the Achievement Gap. Back then, there were 205 students that self-identified as Black. Those students had 3-4 times as many Cs, Ds, or Fs as the total student body and were more likely to report negative social-emotional experiences in Belmont Public Schools. This tells me that something is not working in Belmont Public Schools and we need to work together to fix it. I continue to seek an understanding of how to support students of color and raising the next generation of White allies. I bring this lens to the School Committee and to the forefront during decision making.

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