By Jim Clark and Donald Norton
The City of Somerville School Committee has a new member representing Ward 1 as of Tuesday afternoon of this week.
The new member, however, is not Benjamin Echevarria, who was selected by the sitting Committee members after a lengthy review process ran its course. Instead, runner up Steven Roix – former Committee member Maureen Cuff-Bastardi’s original recommendation for her replacement – was sworn in to the position at City Hall on Tuesday.
After weeks of non-participation by Echevarria, who sent out a letter explaining that a personal matter has caused him to withdraw from the position, the Committee met Monday night and resolved to offer the seat to Roix, who had been considered the Committee’s second choice during the vetting process back in January.
Echevarria’s letter was read to the Committee at the meeting, and then member Christine Rafael made a motion to offer the seat to the runner up, Roix. Committee member Sweeting seconded the motion and, after some discussion on the matter, a majority of the members – 7 of the 8 present – voted for Roix’s appointment. Committee member Mark Niedergang was the sole dissenter, requesting that another of the initial finalists be considered. In the end, the majority vote sealed the appointment for Roix.
The vacancy on the Committee was created when member Maureen Cuff-Bastardi was selected to fill the Ward 1 Alderman seat vacated by retiring Bill Roche late last year. Roix stood as Bastardi’s recommended replacement, but a somewhat controversial decision to implement a vetting process to choose its own candidate implemented by the sitting Committee members prolonged the appointment of a replacement by many weeks.
Although Echevarria was selected by the Committee on Jan.22, his failure to appear to be sworn in to the position or to attend any Committee meetings left Ward 1 unrepresented until now.
In speaking with The News, Echevarria said that he has been ill and that stepping into the position would not be possible at this time. He also wishes Roix the best as he assumes his role as the School Committee’s representative for Ward 1.
Roix told The News, “I was sorry to hear that Ben was not able to serve the interim appointment, but I was honored to have been called back and will do my best to represent Ward 1 on the school committee for the rest of the year. I’m excited about the opportunity and look forward to meeting with as many Ward 1 residents and especially parents – and children – as I can. I want to work together to make sure the Somerville Schools are the best they can be and that we as a District are serving the needs of the community.”
Roix was sworn in at City Hall on Tuesday afternoon.