A Request For Your Vote: Evelyn Gomez, School Committee

Photo: Evelyn Gomez is running to retain her seat on the Belmont School Committee:

The Belmontonian is providing candidates/campaigners of ballot questions in contested races the opportunity to make a request for votes in the final week of the election race.

I am running for the school committee because I believe that every child deserves an education that develops their full potential. I was appointed to the school committee last June during the most disruptive public health and education crisis we have seen in generations. These months have felt like a trial by fire, but I have emerged more committed than ever and armed with the experience necessary to move our school district forward. I am seeking election to my first full term on the school committee to continue the work of making our district more transparent, equitable, and innovative.   

Since my appointment last summer, I aimed to communicate with empathy and transparency to help families adjust to the ever-changing conditions of this crisis. I quickly recognized that communication during a crisis is critical and actively worked to open dialogue between the school committee and the community. These are the concrete actions I took to improve communication and transparency:

  1. I held open office hours. When I proposed to hold a series of school committee sponsored roundtables with families this summer, I was told that was outside of my official duties. Undeterred, I started offering open office hours as an individual, including listening sessions with students. Later, the school committee came to realize the benefit of these and adopted the practice after all.
  2. I pushed for systematic data-collection. I advocated for district wide surveys to form a more complete picture of what families actually wanted from their schools and what students needed, rather than guessing as to what those needs might be.
  3. I advocated for parent and student voices in our decision making processes. Our community has volunteered their time, skills, and resources to help the district navigate the challenges of the pandemic. In the Fall, I convened parents to help inform my decision making process around health metrics and transmission mitigation strategies, and provide insight into how the committee weighed their options. 

Family engagement has never been higher and I want to focus this energy into positive change for our schools. Given our increasingly diverse student population, we have the opportunity to be proactive, keep parent engagement high, and actively seek out the voices that are often left out of decision making. I acknowledge that my decisions had a direct impact on thousands of students and families across our community; I feel that weight every day. I am willing to learn from my mistakes. Without increased transparency, we erode trust and goodwill with the community we represent.

As the child of immigrants and an English Language Learner, I am uniquely positioned to bring about the changes our schools need. I will focus on improving the educational experiences and outcomes for all of our children, with a particular focus on providing equal access to opportunities for all students. 

This is why I spearheaded the creation of the school committee’s new Equity Subcommittee in my first three months, with the goal of dismantling the systems that deny access to opportunities for some students and to bring accountability to a school system that is currently not serving all students equitably. Our district will soon initiate a district-wide equity audit to closely examine the systems and decision points that lead to inequity in students’ access to opportunities. 

As an engineer, I am trained to solve problems and make data-driven decisions. I firmly believe that decision-making is an iterative process and am committed to revisiting decisions when new data is available. I am an innovative thinker and bring a refreshingly new set of insights to the challenges we face in our schools. Since my appointment, I have proven that I will not shy away from challenging the school committee and our administrators to think creatively when approaching the issues we face, or even take an entirely different approach when necessary. That’s the kind of thinking the school committee needs. It’s the kind of leadership our schools need.

I’m nothing if not unapologetically persistent and relentlessly driven to have a positive impact in our community. Visit evelyngomez.org to learn more about my candidacy. I hope you will join me in this fight and respectfully ask for your vote on April 6. 

Evelyn Gómez, Belmont School Committee, Carleton Road

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.