May 25, 2019
Milagros Arbaje-Thomas Is New Chief Exec. Officer of METCO

Milagros Arbaje-Thomas
January 20, 2018 — The Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, a Boston nonprofit better known as METCO, a voluntary school desegregation program established more than half a century ago, last week announced the appointment of Milagros Arbaje-Thomas as its new chief executive officer.

Arbaje-Thomas succeeds Jean McGuire, who retired in 2016 after 43 years as CEO of METCO. Hyacinth McLaren, the organization's business manager, served as senior executive in the interim.

Charles E. Walker Jr., president of the METCO board of directors, said, “Milly Arbaje-Thomas has it all – the neighborhood-based experience, the leadership capability, a documented track record of successful fundraising and partnership brokerage and most of all her passionate commitment to children and families and educational opportunity.”

McGuire's departure from METCO was marked by a dispute with the board. According to The Boston Globe, the METCO board in September 2016 negotiated a retirement agreement with McGuire, then 85, but which she described as a firing. Walker was quoted saying a change in leaders was needed to address several issues, including fundraising and relocating the METCO office. METCO reportedly continued to pay McGuire's salary for two additional years

Arbaje-Thomas previously managed neighborhood antipoverty programs at Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) for 15 years. As deputy director of ABCD field operations she provided leadership to 14 neighborhood sites and is credited with transforming those sites into integrated, full-service case management organizations serving the low-income community.

During her tenure the number of people served tripled to 6,000 low-income residents annually. Arbaje-Thomas raised millions of dollars to support those efforts, building long-lasting partnerships with community agencies and private sector institutions. In addition, she served as director of ABCD’s Parker Hill/Fenway, Mattapan and Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Service Centers and the Citywide Hispanic Center.

“I am humbled and very excited by this outstanding opportunity to make a difference in the lives of so many children and families throughout Massachusetts,” said Arbaje-Thomas. “In today’s world we need more than ever to come together and embrace diversity and inclusiveness and create educational opportunity for all, as occurs in the METCO program."

Walker said the appointment of Arbaje-Thomas coincides with efforts "to develop a more mature and dynamic organization." He said near-term challenges include major fundraising, elevation of the METCO brand, updating of infrastructure, and development of vital social, cultural competency, and academic support services.

Arbaje-Thomas also facilitates professional development training for early childhood providers, teaches parenting classes, and holds an adjunct faculty position at Boston University School of Social Work. She was the co-founder and president of the Roxbury Presbyterian Church Social Impact Center for 14 years, where she led a capital campaign to renovate space and increase programming.

Arbaje-Thomas holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology with minors in education and women’s studies and a Master of Social Work degree, both from Boston College. In 2013 she received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Emmanuel College and was named one of 100 most influential people for Latinos.

Established in 1996, METCO the METCO program was designed to provide the opportunity for children from racially-imbalanced schools in Boston and children from isolated suburban schools to learn together in an integrated public school setting. Since then, METCO has aided the graduation of more than 100,000 alumni and supported 3,300 students annually from Boston and Springfield with more than 30 suburban school districts from across Massachusetts.

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