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Echevarria Steps Down from School Committee, Steven Roix Appointed

Illness caused Benjamin Echevarria to step down from the Somerville School Committee before being sworn into office. The committee promptly appointed Steven Roix to take his place.

Benjamin Echevarria, who was appointed to the Somerville School Committee in January, stepped down from the position due to illness, before officially taking office.

In his place, the Somerville School Committee Monday night appointed Steven Roix as the Ward 1 representative on the committee.

Roix's appointment ends a lengthy process that began in December, 2012, when Ward 1's previous School Committee representative, Maureen Bastardi, was appointed to the Somerville Board of Aldermen after former Alderman William Roche stepped down.

To fill Bastardi's seat, the School Committee launched a selection process, seeking candidates, interviewing 10 of them, narrowing the field down to four finalists, and ultimately voting to appoint Echevarria on Jan. 22.

Echevarria said the day after his appointment he ended up in the emergency room as a result of illness. He did not want to discuss the nature of his illness, but he said, "I'll be okay."

Doctors told him treatment would take months, and he decided he would not be able to fulfill the requirements of the School Committee position, he said.

He said no one pressured him to step down, "I'd just been sick."

Mary Jo Rossetti, chair of the School Committee, said Echevarria sent official notice of his decision during February vacation week.

"I regret that it has taken so long to make this decision," he wrote in the letter, which Rossetti read allowed at the School Committee meeting Monday night.

In his place, the School Committee voted to appoint Steven Roix, who was the runner up in January's selection process. He was also Bastardi's original choice to fill her vacant seat.

The final vote to appoint Roix was 7-1. Mark Niedergang, the Ward 5 representative on the School Committee, who's running for alderman this year, was the lone dissenting vote.

He told the committee, "I don't think this is the right way to go about it at this point," in reference to Monday's vote to appoint Roix. "We had four finalists. One of them dropped out. One of them was appointed and now he's dropped out. As far as I'm concerned there are still two remaining finalists, Steven Roix and Bonny Carroll … the proper thing to do would be to vote on those two candidates."

Carroll was in the running along with Echevarria and Roix in January. The fourth finalist in January, Yvette Verdieu, stepped down before January's vote.

Other School Committee members disagreed with Niedergang, pointing out Roix and Echevarria both received four votes in the first round of voting back in January. It was only after a second round of voting that the School Committee selected Echevaria. On Monday, some School Committee members noted that Ward 1 had been without a representative for nearly three months.

"I think it was an open and proper and deliberate process," said Ward 2 Representative Theresa Cardoso on Monday.

Alderman At-Large William White, who, as president of the Board of Aldermen, also sits on the School Committee, said, "The process did service to its purpose."

"I think it's a very appropriate time to vote for someone else … I don't think there's anything unfair about it," he said.

Members of the Somerville School Committee are elected by popular vote in each of the city's wards every two years, so Roix's appointment to complete Bastardi's term is not long.

Should he choose, he would need to run for election to the School Committee this fall.

More

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