Yale Daily News

The New Haven Public Schools welcomed Orlando Yarborough III ’07 GRD ’10 ’14 and Abie Quiñones-Benítez to the Board of Education earlier this month.

Yarborough is a pastor at Yale with a doctorate in Genetics from the University, and Quiñones-Benítez is a former New Haven Public Schools principal. The two were appointed to the New Haven Board of Education over two months ago by Mayor Justin Elicker, who decided not to reappoint the two outgoing board members. Both were confirmed unanimously on Jan. 3 by the Board of Alders. 

Their predecessors Larry Conaway and Tamaiko Jackson-McArthur were both appointed by former Mayor Toni Harp. Conaway previously served as the principal of Riverside and New Light schools for three years; Jackson-McArthur is a doctor by training and assisted in pandemic mitigation. Jackson-McArthur was also a vocal critic of Mayor Elicker’s Student Resource Officer plan.  

As a Board member, Quiñones-Benítez told the News that she hopes to continue advocating for New Haven students and families while addressing both new and persisting issues of public education. She aims to achieve transparency and clear communication between the Board and families, specifically given the challenges of the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Both Dr. Quiñones-Benítez and Dr. Yarborough have a wealth of expertise that they will bring to the Board of Education,” Elicker said. “In addition, they’ve lived a life of service. And I believe that reflects the type of values that they hold.” 

Quiñones-Benítez’s passion for education and public service emerged through her experiences working with students in the Upward Bound program. She later channeled her love for service into her work at Goodwill Industries and became an advocate for bilingual students in New Haven. 

She has continued to pursue education as a school counselor and instructional coach, before becoming a school principal at the Family Academy of Multilingual Exploration, or FAME, in Fair Haven. 

“With Dr Benitez’s past as a community organizer I’m excited to work with her to better our community,” said Anthony Fiore, a student member of the Board of Education. “I hope that we are able to work on students’ mental health together, especially through such a hard time.”

As a principal at FAME for over a decade, Quiñones-Benítez established a relationship between public school students and students at Yale, noting that this collaboration inspired young students in New Haven to further their studies at institutions of higher education. 

She also implemented a dual language program. She later became a supervisor of principals in New Haven, embracing the role as an opportunity to further support students and families through interactions with other educators. 

“I like to have young people around because they still believe that you can think outside the box,” Quiñones-Benítez said. “And then it pushes us to think outside the box…  we are dealing with so many barriers… What we all need at this point… is to find a way to support families.” 

According to Elicker, Yarborough has spent time working as the board chair of the Friends Center. Elicker also added that Yarborough’s “deep experience working on equity, inclusion and systemic racism” would make him an important voice on the board.

The News was not able to reach Yarborough for comment; however, according to his biography on the website of the Right to Be, “Yarborough is a scientist, leadership coach and strategist” who helped train 19,000 Guatemalan leaders in the first ever national transformation effort. 

The New Haven Board of Education has four mayor-appointed members and two elected members. 

Yash Roy covered City Hall and State Politics for the News. He also served as a Production & Design editor, and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion chair for the News. Originally from Princeton, New Jersey, he is a '25 in Timothy Dwight College majoring in Global Affairs.