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Natalia Linos, leaving School Committee for UN position, reflects on her one-year tenure

Natalia Linos is leaving the School Committee. Photo courtesy of Natalia Linos
April 7, 2024

Natalia Linos, who was elected to the School Committee last year, is leaving the committee on April 15 to return to a position at the United Nations, her previous employer.

Linos, 42, was one of two committee members to vote in favor of unleveling ninth grade English. As the wife and mother of Palestinians, she was also one of the few voices sharing that perspective at emotional board meetings in the wake of Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel and Israel’s subsequent war in Gaza.

Linos, who ran for Congress in 2020, also spent three years as a Town Meeting member and served on the town’s Advisory Council of Public Health. For the past five years, she’s been executive director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University. In her new role in New York, she will be a policy advisor on determinants of health for the UN Development program.

“I’ve always kind of toggled between doing work at the global level, and the local level, and I like that,” she said.

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Her time on the School Committee was “fantastic,” Linos said, and she enjoyed working with “smart, committed people who are able to disagree in ways that are respectful.”

In the wake of war in the Middle East, she experienced unexpected challenges.

“When I first ran for my one-year term, I expected that the value of me running was that I was already engaged to some extent with the School Committee. I had children in the schools, I was someone who already understood politics, and it wouldn’t be a hard learning curve. I could make a difference in that one year,” Linos said.

After October 7, she found herself playing a different role.

“I didn’t expect to be one of the only people at School Committee who had ties to Palestine or the Arab community more broadly. What happened in the last few months has been difficult personally,” she said. “I hope I succeeded in listening deeply and carefully, but I can’t say that it didn’t take a personal toll, to recognize that my position on School Committee required me to some extent to not take a much stronger stance on the war.”

On issues of budget and curriculum in recent months on the School Committee, as well, Linos has several times found herself in the minority.

While most of her School Committee colleagues voted against extending the pilot program to unlevel freshman English, calling instead for more study, Linos said she was swayed by the equity benefits of putting all ninth graders in the same English course.

“I walked into the honors and then the standard class, and it’s as if you’re in two different schools,” she said. “And then you walked into the pilot class, and it felt much more representative of just walking around Brookline and seeing a truly diverse student body.”

The proposal by high school leaders, she said, was intended to try to address what Linos called “segregation” by “really investing in teaching and programming and piloting a new model that really serves students at all levels well and gets rid of that segregation … so that students are able to mingle and meet each other and build community.”

Linos said that she hopes her experience, finding success in town politics despite only living in Brookline for two years as a graduate student and then with her family since 2019, might motivate others to run for local office in Brookline.

“There are a group of folks who are involved in town politics, and everybody else. People don’t know how to do it, and don’t know what it takes,” she said. “I think it’s important to try to change that, and get more people to run.”