Two Boston-area residents are getting dragged after they questioned the qualifications of the school board’s only Black member.
The incident took place at a Beverly school committee meeting on Wednesday night (September 15) when residents Donna Loiacano and Stephen Moloney, questioned how Dr. Kenann McKenzie got a place on the school board.
“How does she get on the board? She wasn’t voted in,” Loiacano said during her allotted time to speak, according to Salem News. Loiacano then proceeded to ask if McKenzie got on the board as a diversity addition made through Dr. Andre Morgan, who is also Black and serves as the district’s director of opportunity, access and equity and has no part in electing committee members.
“Neither you nor Ms. Loiacano is really showing any respect for Dr. McKenzie as a human being and as a member of our School Committee,” Beverly Mayor Mike Cahill told Moloney. “I just want you to stop.”
McKenzie said she didn’t reply to the remarks during the meeting because “I did not believe people speaking to me that way warranted a reply.”
“At the same time, I told myself that there were people who came before me who had to stomach all kinds of assaults and more forward,” she added.
Dr. McKenzie earned her PhD from Columbia University and is an adjunct professor and Director of the Aspire Institute at Boston University. McKenzie also holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a master’s degree from the University of Virginia.
In an interview with the outlet on Thursday (September 16), McKenzie said she and the rest of the Committee felt “collectively traumatized” by the comments.
The reference to Dr. Morgan –– who is also Black and Ivy League-educated, holding a doctorate from Harvard University –– “made it a racially charged question, as far as I’m concerned,” McKenzie said.
“It is an added stress and burden to many people of color to have people stop you at the door and verify only you and no one else is in the space,” McKenzie said.
“While I found the comments to be inappropriate, I am appreciative to our speakers, for highlighting the importance and necessity of engaging in the work of diversity, equity and inclusion,” Morgan said in an email to Salem News.
Dr. McKenzie plans to run for the School Committee again and so far has no opposition to her spot for next year.