Barring a major surprise, Arlington residents will be getting to know a new elected official after Nov. 8. And she aims to be a voice for parents who haven’t previously had much interaction with the school system.
Tannia Talento is virtually assured election to one of two School Board seats on the ballot; she and current board chairman Nancy Van Doren are the only candidates seeking the posts.
(“I think we’re going to do OK,” Van Doren deadpanned at a recent event, while encouraging residents to make sure they cast ballots for both. “There are two choices,” she said. “Vote for two, two, two.”)
Talento, 40, is the heir to the seat occupied for the last eight years by her mentor, School Board member Emma Violand-Sánchez, who opted not to seek a third term. Van Doren and Talento topped the field in a four-way Democratic caucus in May.
“I’m going to work hard, do my best,” Talento said at a recent community event.
“I come here from a very grass-roots place,” she said of her service on a variety of School Board advisory panels, rather than coming up through the Democratic political arena. “I am feeling like I am just coming into this part of my life.”
Talento has a number of priorities for the time she takes her seat in 2017: Improved student access to mental-health services, addressing the needs of a growing population (“we’re going to have a seat for every single student”) and facing up to a lack of progress in closing the so-called achievement gap between students of varying racial, ethnic and economic groups.
Talento pointed to lower test scores for Arlington students whose first language is not English as an area of significant concern. “They are not doing well; everyone else is,” she said.
Talento said she hoped to bring “the perspective of the working parent” to School Board deliberations. She also will be something of a rarity – a local School Board member without a college degree.
“I tried . . . I just couldn’t get it done,” Talento said of a combination of intervening economic and family issues that included working full time and raising a family.
“I wanted to be home for my kids,” she said.
Talento will join a five-member body that has seen significant turnover in recent years, after a relatively stable period before. Three board members – Van Doren, Vice Chairman Barbara Kanninen and Reid Goldstein – each have between one and three years’ experience in office.
With the 2016 School Board election soon to be in the rear-view mirror, eyes are shifting to 2017. Two-term incumbent James Lander, whose term is up next year, has said he plans to seek re-election.