PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — On his second day in office, Mayor Brett Smiley appointed four new members to fill vacancies on the Providence School Board.

Smiley submitted the names of Toni Akin, George Matouk, Carolina Roberts-Santana and Erlin Rogel to the Providence City Council, which must approve or reject the appointments.

The four new appointees were among 26 people who applied last month for the four open seats, including the one set to be vacated later this month by School Board President Kinzel Thomas.

Rogel, a top aide to Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, recently served as chief of staff at the Providence Public School Department and was previously chief of staff to the City Council, the body which will now consider his nomination.

Matouk is the CEO of Fall River-based luxury bedding company Matouk & Co. and is also a board trustee at the Gordon School, a private school in East Providence.

Akin serves as a fiscal specialist with the Norfolk County Treasurer’s Office and has worked at various schools in financial capacities, according to Smiley’s office.

Roberts-Santana is a senior research administrator and program developer at Women & Infants Hospital. If confirmed, she would be replacing Diagneris Garcia, who is resigning before her term is up in 2024.

The other three are being appointed to three-year terms ending in 2026, though the board is expected to be reconstituted into a half-elected, half-appointed board in 2025.

“I am excited to recommend a strong slate of candidates to be a part of our school board,” Smiley said in a news release. “Each of these individuals bring knowledge, expertise and a professional skill set that will be invaluable as we work together to improve school facilities and outcomes and prepare for a successful return to local control.” 

Smiley did not select Jesus Nuñez, who had applied to be re-appointed to his current seat on the board. His term ends Jan. 31.

“My commitment to the district remains as strong as it was on the first day I was named to the Providence School Board,” Nuñez told 12 News. “Mayor Smiley and I reached a mutual decision for me to support our students and families in a different capacity.” (It was not immediately clear what that new role would be, but Nuñez said it is not a job with the Smiley administration.)

Smiley’s office said the School Board Nominating Commission sent six recommended applicants to the mayor, and he selected four of them to appoint to the open seats. The two recommended candidates who were not selected were Diego Tomas Arene-Morley and Cedric Russell.

The School Board has nine members total with staggered terms. Mark Santow and Muyideen Ibiyemi are both up in 2024, while Night Jean Muhingabo, Travis Escobar and Ty’Relle Stephens are in office until 2025.

The board currently lacks power over the Providence schools due to the state takeover of the school district, but could regain control in the coming years. The current term of the takeover ends in November 2024.

While the takeover can be extended, Smiley said after his inaugural address Monday he is operating under the assumption that the city will get the schools back at that time.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.