After a year of unprecedented hardship triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, city officials were eagerly looking forward to 2021. “2021 will bring new transportation initiatives, additional improvement to the city’s infrastructure and continued support for our residents,” said Mayor Carlo DeMaria. “2021 will be a great year for Everett.”
Ward 1 Councillor Fred Capone also shared his optimism for the New Year. “2020 was such a difficult year emotionally, physically and financially. In addition, many of us experienced loss of friends and loved ones,” he said. “I am confident that we will emerge a stronger community even more dedicated to the needs of others.”
Matewsky voted City Council president
In a unanimous vote, the City Council elected Councillor-at-Large Wayne Matewsky to serve as its new president.
“He’s given his life to this city,” said Ward 3 Councillor Anthony DiPierro, who nominated Matewsky during the January 4 meeting. “He lives, sleeps and breathes Everett.”
Since he was first elected in 1981, Matewsky served with seven mayors, was president of the Common Council and the Board of Aldermen. He was also the state representative of the 28th Middlesex District from 2013-2015.
“Honesty, respect and fairness has always been what I strive to do in this Chamber and in my life,” said Matewsky. “You can make friends in this business and I have. I want to thank my colleagues who spoke and sponsored me. I’m very grateful; I appreciate your faith in me.”
DeMaria extended his congratulations. “I have known Wayne for many years and have always admired his work ethic and his deep connection that he has fostered with his constituents throughout the years,” he said following the meeting. “I look forward to working closely with Council President Matewsky and want to congratulate him for his election.”
After what had been a very difficult year with the pandemic, outgoing City Council President Rosa DiFlorio was more than happy to turn the reins over to Matewsky. “All I can tell you is I have a lot of candles and I’ll be lighting them for you,” she said.
At the time, no one could have known how true those words would be just two months later.
Parker leads School Committee
Regarding the future of the School Committee, Ward 3 Member Frank Parker was chosen as the new chairman. He said transparency needs to be at the forefront as well as educating residents about the school budget process.
The committee’s new vice chairman, Thomas Abruzzese, said he was anticipating the launch of the hybrid learning model, which he hoped would be the gateway to the return of in-person learning. Abruzzese also said he had the utmost confidence in the committee’s chairman. “I am looking forward to a great year; we elected an outstanding leader in Frank Parker,” he said. “With Frank’s leadership, I am confident we as a group, along with the city government and our superintendent, will be able to continue to provide a high-quality education for all of our students.”
Mayor joins School Committee
On January 13, Governor Charlie Baker signed the Home Rule petition amending Everett’s City Charter and allowing DeMaria to become a voting member of the School Committee. DeMaria said he looked forward to cohesively working with the committee while developing a record of accountability and allowing residents to know where he stands on important school-related matters.
Ground broken for mixed-use development on Broadway
On January 25, DeMaria hosted the groundbreaking of The 600 development at 600 Broadway. The city had worked diligently with the development team, A10 Associates, Volnay Capital and Context to get this project off the ground.
“It was very exciting to host the groundbreaking of The 600,” said DeMaria. “I have been looking forward to this day since the planning stages began. The 600 will be located in the heart of the city and it will be a fantastic addition to our community.”
This mixed-use development remains under construction and is located at 594-602 Broadway. In addition to residential units, the development will feature retail space, restaurant space and a roof deck with outdoor kitchens. The project is expected to be completed in the spring of 2022.
School officials speak out against Baker’s adjustment to vaccine timeline
The School Committee was not pleased with Governor Charlie Baker’s decision to put teachers further back in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Baker announced that residents 65 and older and residents with two or more comorbid health conditions had been moved ahead of teachers in Phase Two of the vaccine rollout plan.
“Clearly this governor has an issue with educators,” said Ward 4 School Committee Member Dana Murray during the School Committee’s February 1 meeting. “The state came in for no discernable reason and changed the rules of the game.”
Vice Chairman Thomas Abruzzese said the decision went against what the governor had previously said about giving educators priority. “There seems to be all sorts of lines crossing,” he said.
As a result of Baker’s decision, Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani said, the district’s first vaccine clinic, which was scheduled for February 6, was put on hold until further notice. “At this point, we don’t even have a first date,” she said.
Kimberly Auger, president of the Everett Teachers Association (ETA), spoke about the results of the teacher survey regarding the transition to a hybrid learning model. The results showed that 57 percent of Everett’s educators said they would return to school “with reservations.” In addition, 77 percent said they wanted to see the positivity rate decrease to five percent before returning to the classroom. “We want nothing more than to be back in front of our students, but only when it’s safe,” said Auger. “Our numbers are still high.”
She was also impressed with how teachers adapted to the remote learning model. “On a dime, they went into another mode,” said Auger. “We were one of the few districts in the state that did this right.”
However, Anna Seiders, the ETA’s communication secretary, said her “biggest concern” pertained to new variants of COVID-19, adding that another surge was possible.
EPS to bypass hybrid model; in-person learning slated for early April
Nearly one year after COVID-19 surfaced, Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani announced that the district would scrap plans for hybrid learning and go directly to in-person instruction on April 5 starting with students in grades K-5. The decision to bypass the hybrid model came after Governor Charlie Baker and state Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley called upon districts to bring elementary students back to school, five days a week, by April. Middle and high school students would return at a later date.
“The mandate was surprising but not shocking,” Tahiliani said during the March 1 School Committee meeting. “This is an opportune time; we have started to see a flattening of the curve.”
At the time, Everett’s COVID-19 risk level remained in the yellow category with a positivity rate of 3.4 percent.
Tahiliani also acknowledged that some teachers might not feel comfortable returning to school right away. Therefore, the district hired 40 long-term substitute teachers.
In terms of what the school day would look like, Tahiliani said, students would begin arriving at 7:40 a.m. and would have an extended entrance period to maintain social distancing. With the exception of physical education, Tahiliani said, specialist teachers would come to the classrooms and that students would also have lunch in their classrooms.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said remote learning had run its course. “Zoom is starting to get very tiresome,” he said.
DeMaria also said the state was receiving 140,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine each week.
Within that figure, 400 doses would be sent to Everett. “This is movement,” he said. “I do believe that we are going to be moving faster with priority gaps.”
School Committee Vice Chairman Thomas Abruzzese said the announcement from Baker and
Riley caught him “completely off guard.” “It’s a lot to swallow,” he said. “All of the sudden,
Governor Baker is going full speed ahead with everything.”
Abruzzese also spoke about conversations he had with teachers regarding the reopening plan. “They told me that they heard about this and it should all be slowed down,” he said.
However, Tahiliani said the students needed to be in the forefront of everyone’s mind. “We are growing more concerned about the social and emotional well-being of our students,” she said.
“We’re coming up on a full year of being remote – it’s time for us to move forward.”
Matewsky suffers heart attack in Florida
While on vacation in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, City Council President Wayne Matewsky suffered a massive heart attack. Realizing his life was in danger, Matewsky was able to call 911; however, when paramedics arrived, his heart had stopped and a defibrillator was needed to revive him. Matewsky was then rushed to Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale and was put on a ventilator.
At the time, Councillor-at-Large Michael Marchese was also on vacation in Fort Lauderdale when he received word about Matewsky on March 18. “It’s terrible. I’ve been friends with him for 30-40 years,” said Marchese. “We just have to hope for the best.”
In addition to Marchese, former State Representative Stephen Smith and former Councillor Nicholas Saia went to be with Matewsky. However, Matewsky, who was usually full of gusto, could only faintly acknowledge the presence of others.
Marchese said doctors intended to perform bypass surgery on March 19 and March 22;
however, both times, they determined that Matewsky was not yet strong enough to tolerate the surgery. In addition, Marchese said Matewsky had a cardiac arrhythmia known as atrial fibrillation (AFib).
Ward 2 Councillor Stephanie Martins said the situation was particularly difficult with Matewsky being nearly 1,500 miles from home. “I am so sorry to hear about this tragic news and it is even worse that he is that far away,” she said.
Ward 3 Councillor Anthony DiPierro checked on Matewsky’s condition every day. “I’ve been very upset since hearing he suffered the heart attack but I know Wayne is a fighter and he will be back stronger than ever,” he said. “I continue to pray every day for his speedy recovery.”
Ward 1 Councillor Fred Capone shared his concerns as well. “It really is terrible; everyone is praying for him and hopefully he will have a speedy recovery,” he said.
Capone also spoke about how the City Council should proceed under these circumstances. “The proper course of action is to have the body appoint an acting president on a temporary basis until Wayne is able to resume his duties as president,” he said.
In the weeks that followed, the City Council chose DiPierro to serve as president pro tempore until Matewsky was well enough to return.
Local doctors weigh in on latest spike in COVID-19 cases
As COVID-19 cases began to increase once again, doctors at area hospitals agreed that the uptick was triggered not only by variant forms of the virus, but also by countless individuals who have grown weary of living with a pandemic for the past year. On April 1, the state Department of Public Health reported that 55 communities were in the red category of COVID-19 transmission. Everett had also slipped back into the red category with a positivity rate of 5.3 percent.
“Variants are contributing to the increase in cases in Massachusetts,” said Dr. Lou Ann Bruno- Murtha of Cambridge Health Alliance. “The more infectious B.1.1.7 variant [UK variant] is increasingly being identified in Massachusetts and the P1 variant [Brazilian variant] is also beginning to increase.”
On April 4, renowned epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm made a bold prediction on NBC’s
“Meet the Press.” “Let me say that, at this time, we really are in a category five hurricane status,” he said. “At this point, we will see the highest number of cases reported globally since the beginning of the pandemic. We’re just at the beginning of this surge; we haven’t even really begun to see it yet.”
Despite her deep respect for Osterholm, Bruno-Murtha said she was “more optimistic for
Massachusetts.” “We have maintained a state mask mandate and our vaccination program has been increasingly efficient,” she said. “As of April 5, 38 percent of residents have received at least one vaccine.”
She also said that time is of the essence regarding the ongoing rollout of the vaccines. “The quicker we administer vaccines, the sooner we will have the upper hand on this pandemic,” said Bruno-Murtha. “I remain hopeful we will not experience another surge in Massachusetts.”
Dr. Brian Chow of Tufts Medical Center said there were approximately 700 cases of the UK variant in Massachusetts. He said the Brazilian variant had also gained a foothold following an outbreak on Cape Cod. “We are all very concerned about the trajectory of the number of cases, particularly in Massachusetts,” said Chow. “Whether the next surge arrives will depend on our actions today. Now is the time to act to prevent the next surge.”
With Massachusetts in the final phase of the Reopening Plan, Chow agreed with Bruno- Murtha that vaccinations needed to continue without delay. “We are in a race against time to get vaccines into arms,” he said. “It takes at least 14 days after the final dose of vaccine to be protected. For Pfizer or Moderna, that could be as long as five to seven weeks after the first dose.”
Dr. Stephen Kissler of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said that while the variants pose a significant threat, another shutdown would not be necessary. He said that during the past year healthcare professionals had learned an incredible amount of information pertaining to the spread of COVID-19. For example, he said, the probability of contracting the virus by going to the grocery store is fairly minimal, particularly with everyone wearing a mask. In contrast, Kissler said indoor dining creates a much greater risk. “That’s the real concern that I have,” he said.
Kissler also said there would likely be a short-term surge from those who went away for Easter or Passover. “I think we will probably see some surge,” he said.
DeMaria and DiDomenico successfully lobby for additional COVID-19 relief funding
After the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, Mayor Carlo DeMaria quickly discovered that Everett would only be receiving $4.5 million. In contrast, Newton was slated to get $65 million. “Disproportionate is an understatement,” said DeMaria.
In addition to Everett, Chelsea, Randolph and Methuen were also shortchanged by what DeMaria called an “old and antiquated formula.” These were four of 20 communities identified by the state as being hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, DeMaria and State Senator Sal DiDomenico contacted Governor Charlie Baker to lobby for additional funding. Two weeks later, Baker announced that $100 million would be divided between Everett, Chelsea, Randolph and Methuen.
“I would like to personally thank Governor Baker and his team for acknowledging and quickly responding to the inequitable funding of the federal formula,” said DeMaria. “I would also like to recognize the relentless advocacy of State Senator Sal DiDomenico who has stood by our side through this entire process. Everett deserves this funding and I’m proud to say that our persistence has paid off.”
DiDomenico was also pleased with the new allocation. “I am relieved that we finally have a positive outcome. This has been the result of a tremendous amount of time and effort, and it has consumed the work of my office for weeks,” he said. “I am grateful to the Baker Administration for working so closely with myself and our local and federal leaders to secure a resolution and ensure that our hardest hit communities receive the funding we both need and deserve.”
Ward 1 Councillor Fred Capone said the allocation was an example of Baker’s ongoing commitment to Everett. “Without these funds, efforts to assist our residents and businesses through this difficult time would not be possible,” he said. “We must allocate these funds wisely, as the steady stream of federal and state aid will not last forever.”
Ward 3 Councillor Anthony DiPierro said the state intervened at a time when the federal government fell short. “I am thankful that our state officials stepped up to the plate and bailed us out while our federal delegation left us grasping for straws,” he said. “It’s a shame that our federal delegation was asleep at the wheel on this one.”
Return to in-person learning
Nearly seven months after the 2020-2021 school year began, students in grades K-5 finally had the opportunity to return to their schools.
“The students are just so thrilled to be back,” said Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani during the April 5 School Committee meeting. “It was really exciting and energizing to be in those buildings. We’ve lost an indescribable amount during the pandemic.”
She said 70 percent of elementary school parents opted to send their children back to school while the remaining 30 percent would finish the school year using the remote learning model. Tahiliani said 82 percent of parents would allow their children to be tested for COVID-19. She said preschool students and students in grades 6-8 are slated to return to the classroom on April 26.
Tahiliani said Everett High School freshmen will have the option of returning to school on May 10 while sophomores, juniors and seniors can return on May 11. She said 37 percent of parents plan on sending their students back to school and the remaining 67 percent will continue with remote learning. “Certain parents did not want to have their students reacclimate to returning to in-person [learning] at this point in the school year,” she said.
Although Everett had slipped back into the red category for COVID-19 transmission, Tahiliani said there was no indication that the schools were unsafe. However, she and her colleagues continued to closely monitor the metrics and would act if necessary. “All year, we’ve been very flexible and adjusted as we’ve needed to,” she said.
ZBA greenlights SKY Everett proposal
The Zoning Board of Appeals, during its May 3 meeting, voted unanimously to approve the proposal for SKY Everett, a 21-story, mixed-use building to be constructed at 114 Spring St.
“We are humbled and grateful for the unanimous support of the Zoning Board of Appeals. A lot of work remains, but this vote gives us the confidence to continue this journey and deliver a project to the community that we can all be proud of,” said John Tocco, a partner at V10 Development. “None of this could have happened without the vision and leadership of Mayor Carlo DeMaria and his team who spent several years rezoning and laying the foundation for spectacular things to happen in the Commercial Triangle.”
The focal point of the development will be the Sky Bar and Restaurant operated by father and son Nick and Nico Varano. At 240 feet, it will be the tallest restaurant in New England.
“At a time when restaurants are closing and the industry is contracting, we couldn’t be happier to team with the Varano family and legendary team to bring this amazing concept to life,” said Tocco. “The rooftop bar and restaurant reinforces our belief that you don’t have to be downtown to experience all the best that Boston offers. The sensational view, easy access and first-class amenities offered at SKY Everett is urban living at its best, without the city hassles. The breathtaking views combined with unmatched hospitality will create an atmosphere unlike any other in Boston. You can even get the best dining and hospitality experience of the North End here, without worrying about parking in the North End.”
Once completed, SKY Everett will be the tallest residential building in the city. In terms of size, only Encore Boston Harbor will be larger than SKY Everett. The building will offer 363 apartments, 340 parking spaces and up to 7,490 square feet of retail space.
Tocco also said the building will have “amazing views of the Boston skyline,” something that is currently lacking throughout the city. “We all think Everett is situated on this hill and you can see Boston all over the place,” he said. “It’s very hard, at the pedestrian level, to catch a glimpse of the city of Boston.”
Tocco also said he did not expect the building to become an obstruction. “As the neighborhood builds out, the building will move to the background,” he said.
In addition, V10 will put in a 15-foot right of way to allow for a dedicated bus lane and Silver Line stop.
“I commend V10 for working with the city to help advance our transportation priorities as well as creating fantastic public spaces,” said DeMaria. “This project supports our transportation goals and, just as important, cleans another significantly contaminated site in our city and returns it to the public for lasting enjoyment and revitalization. At the end of the day, it’s a beautiful project. Silver Line expansion into Everett has been a priority of my administration for years. We have invested significant time and energy along with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the MBTA, to make this a reality.”
City Council approves 12-year term limits
The City Council, during its May 10 meeting, voted 7-3 in support of amending the City Charter to enact term limits for the City Council, the Mayor and the School Committee. New officials serving in any of these capacities would be limited to 12 consecutive years.
“It’s a progressive step that would lead to increased citizen participation,” said City Council President Pro Tempore Anthony DiPierro. “It would increase the ratio of competitive elections. It doesn’t rule anyone out of office for good as there is a Break in Service clause.”
Councillor-at-Large Michael Marchese said candidates needed to focus more on a November victory rather than on term limits. “You still have to win the election,” said Marchese, who has been on and off the council for the past 25 years. “That’s the main thing; it’s not like you’re guaranteed a spot.”
Ward 6 Councillor Michael McLaughlin said that without term limits officials run the risk of becoming complacent. “We cannot become stale in the position,” he said.
McLaughlin also agreed with Marchese about the importance of each election. “Every two years, term limits are in effect,” he said.
Ward 2 Councillor Stephanie Martins also supported having term limits. “I’m in favor of term limits across the board,” she said, adding that they would promote an equal ratio of new and experienced officials. “I think we will have the healthy balance that we’re looking for.”
However, Councillor-at-Large John Hanlon spoke in opposition. “The way that you stay in office is by doing a good job,” he said, adding that he would not want to see anyone leave because of term limits.
Although in favor of the Order, Ward 1 Councillor Fred Capone said he was against any Charter changes that are not on the ballot. “At the heart of our government is the Charter. It shouldn’t be this easy to change it, it really shouldn’t,” he said.
City Council opens budget hearings
As the budget process for fiscal year 2022 moved forward, department heads began pitching their requests to the City Council’s Budget Committee.
During a June 2 hearing, Mayor Carlo DeMaria proposed to establish a Transportation Department to be funded at $490,100. The department would be run by Jay Monty, the city’s transportation planner. In this new role, Monty would receive an annual salary of $110,000. A junior director, an individual who recently completed graduate school, would also be hired at a salary of $70,000.
“That’s a modest rate for that position,” said Monty. “We’ve done a lot with very little over the past few years.”
The remaining budget hearings were held on June 5. During that meeting, the Fire Department requested $12.1 million, representing an increase of $800,000. During the hearing, then-Fire Chief Anthony Carli said, “18-20” new firefighters would be joining the department. However, they could not be officially added to the roster until they completed the three-month training program at the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy.
Carli also said the time had come to purchase a new truck for Ladder 1, adding that it should arrive by the end of the year. Carli said the Federal Emergency Management Agency provided funding for a state-of-the-art fire boat, which was also expected to arrive by the end of the year. “We’re extremely excited about that,” he said.
The request for the Police Department was $16.2 million compared to $15.8 million last year. Police Chief Steven Mazzie said 10 officers would be joining the department during the next year. He said a number of officers were eligible for pay increases and that $1 million was budgeted for overtime compensation. In addition, Mazzie said $314,329 was earmarked to purchase new patrol vehicles, an increase of $164,329. “Vehicle pricing is through the roof; it’s gotten extremely expensive,” he said, adding that the department was also considering electric vehicles.
The budget for the Mayor’s Office came in at $929,998, representing a decrease of $1.1 million. Ward 5 Councillor Rosa DiFlorio called attention to the fact that $147,900 was budgeted for Erin Deveney, Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s current chief of staff. “I just want to clarify something. The chief of staff last year was getting paid $61,000 because he couldn’t make any more than that,” she said. “I just want to make that clear.”
DiFlorio also questioned why only $85,000 was being offered to hire a director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “I feel like we’re not paying a lot of money in this city, even though it sounds like a lot,” she said. However, Deveney said an additional appropriation would be requested if the salary needs to be adjusted to find the right applicant.
In addition, DiFlorio took issue with the stipends for the city’s boards and commissions. “Some of these board members are making $1,500 and $2,200 and they do as much work as we do,” she said. “It’s pretty sad because we’re making over $25,000 to be councillors.”
In terms of reductions, Ward 1 Councillor Fred Capone made motions to eliminate DeMaria’s $6,000 auto allowance, to cut the advertising budget by $16,300 and to cut other miscellaneous expenses by $25,000. Each motion was voted down. Capone’s final motion on the Mayor’s Office budget was to reduce the official celebrations line item from $100,000 to $75,000.
However, City Council President Pro Tempore Anthony DiPierro responded in opposition. “To vote for a reduction tells a story that we want less community engagement and less community enjoyment,” he said. “I’m not willing to do that.”
Capone’s motion ultimately failed by a vote of 8-2.
The budget for the Department of Public Works (DPW) came in at $13.5 million, a decrease of $700,000. After reviewing the DPW’s request, Capone made a motion to reduce the line item for citywide seasonal expenditures from $100,000 to $75,000. However, his motion was defeated in a 5-2 vote. Capone made another motion to cut the landscaping line item by $100,000. Although closer, that motion was also defeated in a 4-4 vote.
However, DiFlorio made a motion to reduce body shop repairs from $70,000 to $50,000 and her motion passed, 5-3.
DPW Director Jerry Navarra said that because of the COVID-19 pandemic his department was not able to hire any seasonal employees last year. However, $135,000 was earmarked in this year’s budget to fund seasonal jobs.
School budget garners unanimous support from City Council’s Budget Committee
Things probably could not have gone any better as the City Council’s Budget Committee, during its June 8 meeting, voted unanimously to approve the School Department’s $98.8 million operating budget for fiscal year 2022. Within that figure, $5 million would be used to fund special education transportation.
During the meeting, Anu Jayanth, the district’s chief financial officer, said Everett received a considerable boost of $8.6 million in Chapter 70 funding. She also said Everett’s charter school tuition reimbursement was expected to increase by 156 percent, topping out at $1.8 million for fiscal year 2022. In terms of staffing, $2.3 million would be used to fund 25 new positions.
Capone noted that the individual cost of educating each student is $14,682. In contrast, the state average is $16,583. “We’re below the state average per pupil,” he said. “It’s a difficult thing to see. Investing in our students is one of the best things you can do for our collective futures.”
DiFlorio also spoke about the shortfall in per pupil funding. “We have to give every child what they need, not what they want, and I’m sorry for that,” she said.
Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani was able to lay two matters to rest. She said no employee received a 30 percent raise and that no external company was hired to craft the budget. “That was created by us,” she said.
School Committee Chairman Frank Parker said personnel policies have improved. “The prior practice was if you had a personal day, if you had something planned, you had to call into the building the morning of your planned personal day to see if you could still take it off,” he said, adding that employees could be denied that time at the last minute. “Now we have more personal days and they really are personal days.”
Although this year’s budget represented an increase of nearly 11 percent, Parker said, the cost of a level-funded budget goes up by an average of three percent a year. “If we’re getting three percent, we’re staying even,” he said.
EHS seniors push through pandemic and on to graduation
After spending the majority of their senior year on Zoom, the members of the Everett High School Class of 2021 united for the traditional graduation ceremony they deserved.
Looking out over a sea of crimson, State Senator Sal DiDomenico said “perseverance” is the word he would use to describe this year’s senior class. “You persevered through one of the worst times in world history,” he said during the June 9 ceremony at Everett Veterans Memorial Stadium.
With two children in high school, DiDomenico said, he was all too familiar with the challenges of learning from home. “Remote learning was not easy,” he said.
DiDomenico also said that oftentimes residents who live in the suburbs will simply say they are from Boston or the Boston area. However, he advised the graduates not to do that. “Don’t forget where you came from; say you came from Everett, Massachusetts,” he said. “You will forever be connected to Everett High School.”
DiDomenico reminded the graduates that being a good person exceeds any other accomplishment. “At the end of the day, no one is going to care how much money you have in your bank account or what title you have,” he said.
In addition, he told the graduates that they were only in first grade when he joined the Senate in May 2010. “I’ve seen you grow. I’ve seen how you act in the community,” he said.
State Representative Joseph McGonagle said the past 14 months were challenging not just because of the pandemic, but also because of political and social turmoil. “It was real easy to look at the negative, but you didn’t,” he said.
McGonagle said that early on in the pandemic, a massive effort was underway to distribute meals to students, purchase hundreds of new Chromebooks and ensure that everyone had Internet access. “Teachers worked twice as hard to adapt to remote learning,” he said. “Everywhere we looked there were helpers, all of you were helpers.”
Therefore, McGonagle advised the class to seek out the good even in the darkest of times. “Remember to always look for the helpers,” he said.
During her keynote address, Tahiliani said she had only been at the helm for nine days when the pandemic struck in March 2020. “You’ve all gotten here on a very similar road together,” she said. “You are a graduating class that will go down in history.” She also said the graduates had a firm understanding of the greater good and had always conducted themselves with “integrity and grace.”
“Our wishes for you are very simple: We just want you to enjoy,” she said.
With the pandemic being so unpredictable, Valedictorian Karen Portillo said, for several months she and her classmates were unsure about graduation. “We didn’t even know if this was going to happen at all,” she said.
Portillo recognized her fellow graduates as being champions of the Black Lives Matter movement and as defenders of the Asian American Pacific Islander community. “We believe that love is love,” she said. “We will not sit by while injustice still exists.”
In addition, Portillo said it was her hope that Everett had made a “lasting impression” on her classmates as they ventured out into the world. “Know that Everett has your back,” she said.
Salutatorian Tina Nguyen remembered when the schools were forced to close because of the pandemic. “We didn’t think it would last that long,” said Nguyen, adding that she and her classmates were certain they would be back in school by June 2020.
However, she said, the lack of social engagement and the infamous senioritis began to take their toll as the months wore on. “We just had to go with the flow,” she said. “Life isn’t always smooth like butter.”
Having graduated from Everett High School 30 years earlier, DeMaria also recognized the resilience shown by the Class of 2021. “You’ve had more obstacles than any other class in Everett High School history,” he said. “COVID tried to knock you down, but you didn’t let it.”
DeMaria also encouraged the graduates to pursue their passions. “Things are going to happen that you don’t expect,” he said. “Don’t let others tell you that you can’t do it. Love who you are.”
Matewsky returns to City Council
Having been sidelined by a heart attack while vacationing in Florida earlier in the year, Wayne Matewsky was finally able to resume his duties as City Council president. “Three months ago, I went to Florida for a rest,” he said during the council’s June 14 meeting. He never imagined that eight days later he would suffer a massive heart attack that almost took his life.
However, there happened to be a fire station located behind the hotel where Matewsky was staying in Fort Lauderdale. “That fire department was there in two minutes,” he said. “They saved my life.”
Matewsky was able to call 911; however, when paramedics arrived his heart had stopped and a defibrillator was needed to revive him. Matewsky was then rushed to Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale and put on a ventilator. “I guess, for two weeks, I was in an induced coma – from what they tell me,” he said.
The response from Everett was immediate. Although Matewsky remained unconscious, he had frequent visits from former State Representative Stephen Smith, former Councillor Nicholas Saia and Councillor-at-Large Michael Marchese, who was at the hospital almost every day. “Mike Marchese is something else,” said Matewsky.
In the weeks that followed, Matewsky underwent successful heart surgery, emerged from the coma and was greeted by yet another visitor. “I woke up one morning and there was Anthony DiPierro,” he said.
Matewsky said that during his recovery he received more than 400 cards as well as countless floral arrangements, fruit baskets and gifts. “They thought I was some kind of celebrity in Fort Lauderdale,” he said.
After one month at the Florida hospital, Matewsky flew back to Boston and was admitted to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital before finally returning home to Everett. “I’ve never been sick like this before,” he said. “I’m lucky to be alive.”
The council voted unanimously to support the Statement of Interest (SOI) from the Everett Public Schools for the construction of a new high school.
Charles Obremski, assistant superintendent of operations, reminded the council of the ongoing problem of overcrowding at Everett High School. “In the year 2023-2024, we expect almost 2,400 students to be in that building,” he said, adding that the current building was designed to accommodate 1,800 students.
Obremski said he and his colleagues seriously considered using the former Pope John XXIII High School. However, he said that building would only accommodate 800 students. “It wouldn’t be big enough for a high school,” he said. In addition, Obremski said reopening the former Everett High School would not be feasible as the increased traffic volume would cause absolute gridlock on Broadway, which is already congested.
Although DeMaria recently called attention to the site formerly occupied by General Electric, Obremski said nothing is set in stone. “There is no site picked at this time,” he said. “There’s no money on the table; the money will come later. The whole process is about a five- to six-year process.”
Given the projected growth of the student population, Obremski said, the new school would have to accommodate up to 2,700 students. He also reiterated that overcrowding is a districtwide problem. “Most of our libraries right now, because of overcrowding, are not used as libraries,” he said. “We’re actually using them as classrooms.”
In addition, he said closets are even being used as “temporary small learning environments.” “It’s not the best situation, but under the current circumstances, it’s the best we could do,” said Obremski.
In terms of a total cost, Obremski said the rough estimate for a new high school could range between $350 million and $400 million.
Greystar breaks ground for mixed-use development on Boston Street
Representatives from Greystar Real Estate Partners were joined by city and state officials to celebrate the groundbreaking at 85 Boston St., which will be home to two six-story, mixed-use buildings.
“My vision for the city is much different from my predecessors,’” DeMaria said during the June 23 ceremony. “The Greystar Development project is going to transform the Commercial Triangle Economic Development District. Through this mixed-use residential development, Greystar will make best use of the land. We are grateful for the city’s partnership with Greystar and look forward to the dynamic neighborhood that will be created.”
The first of the two buildings, known as The Mason, is slated to be completed by 2023. The building will feature 330 apartments, 5,000 square feet of ground floor retail space and parking for 400 vehicles. The second building will increase the number of apartments to 650 with 33 affordable units. In addition, the front of the first building facing Vale Street will feature a raised bike lane, a public bike share station, new sidewalks and landscaping. Other amenities will include a courtyard, a pool, grilling stations, a fitness center and a dog park.
“Vale Street will be the new Main Street of this community,” said Alfred Wojciechowski, a principal with CBT Architects.
“The city has been a terrific partner at all stages of this project and The Mason will greatly contribute to the transformation of the surrounding industrial neighborhood into a walkable, welcoming district with vibrant retail and outdoor spaces,” said Gary Kerr, managing director for Greystar.
DiDomenico said Greystar has a meticulous process of selecting a site for development. “They don’t just come into a community and start building things; they want to make sure it’s a sure bet,” he said. “This is an exciting time for Everett’s reputation around the state.”
McGonagle said he has watched Everett “grow and evolve” over the years, adding that The Mason is another step in the right direction. “It will foster relationships between neighbors – the sky’s the limit for Everett,” he said.
Delta variant targeting those without COVID vaccine
With the rise of the COVID-19 Delta variant, doctors at area hospitals suggested that this strain of the virus could attack anyone who has not been vaccinated – and it would do so with ease. Delta was a staggering 225 percent more contagious than the original COVID-19 virus and the other variants that have surfaced.
“It is almost exclusively infecting unvaccinated individuals,” said Dr. Lou Ann Bruno-Murtha of Cambridge Health Alliance. “This variant has demonstrated improved fitness and is expected to increase.”
Although there have been instances of Delta breaking through the vaccine, Bruno-Murtha said, the probability of a vaccinated person becoming infected remains quite low. “Fully vaccinated individuals are very well protected against the Delta variant,” she said. “Only 0.1 percent of breakthrough infections in Massachusetts are attributed to Delta and by and large, have been mild infections not requiring hospitalization.”
By July, 63 percent of Massachusetts residents had been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bruno-Murtha said Delta would most likely flourish among groups of unvaccinated individuals. “Local clusters will emerge, particularly where unvaccinated individuals gather now that masking and physical distancing in public areas is no longer required,” she said. “Masking and other mitigation strategies may need to be implemented locally, in response to increases in community transmission rates.”
Dr. Scott Dryden-Peterson of Brigham and Women’s Hospital said Delta was responsible for the majority of the state’s COVID-19 infections. Although studies remain ongoing, he said, the Delta strain appeared to be more severe. “If community rates of COVID-19 continue to increase, either from Delta or another variant, increasing use of masks and distancing would be a good idea,” he said. “I advise my older patients and those with conditions that place them at risk to continue to wear masks in public indoor spaces, even after vaccination.”
School officials endorse state mask mandate
Everett school officials stood behind the state mask mandate, which was put in place until at least October 1.
“I believe this announcement provides much-needed direction and certainty on a key safety consideration that has been generating many valid but differing opinions. I feel it is an effective way to help districts transition back to full-time in-person teaching and learning in the safest possible manner,” said Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani. “I also commend DESE [Department of Elementary and Secondary Education] for adopting a policy that encourages vaccination efforts and allows for reconsideration as the school year moves along.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria also supported the mask mandate, saying it is particularly beneficial for children under 12. “While I understand that wearing masks during the school day is not ideal, I believe it is in the best interest of our children to wear one,” he said. “Children under the age of 12 years old are currently unable to be protected by the vaccine so wearing masks is the second best line of defense.”
Ward 4 School Committee Member Dana Murray said she trusted that the mask mandate is the right move. “The resources and data available to them on a state level go far beyond what I have access to as a School Committee member,” she said. “As this school year stands before us, my hope is that all of our children will have a safe, healthy, happy, challenging, school year – in person.”
On the state level, the DESE Board voted, during its August 24 meeting, to authorize Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley to put the mask mandate in place for the first month of school. The purpose of the mandate was to “encourage higher vaccination rates among students and staff and to implement a uniform policy for all schools to begin the year.” After October 1, students and staff on the middle and high school levels could remove their masks provided they were vaccinated. In addition, 80 percent of students and staff in each school had to be vaccinated as well.
“As students and staff prepare to return to school full-time, in-person, our priority is on a smooth reopening,” said Riley. “With cases rising, this mask mandate will provide one more measure to support the health and safety of our students and staff this fall.”
Lt. Governor Karyn Polito explained the reasoning for the 80 percent threshold. “Our goal remains to get as many people as possible vaccinated,” she said. “We hope that by instituting vaccine benchmarks among school populations we will create a real incentive for students and staff to get vaccinated so they can remove their masks.”
Although Massachusetts maintained one of the best vaccination rates in the country, Education Secretary James Peyser said there was still work to be done. “The vaccination rates among young people in Massachusetts are among the highest in the nation, with 65 percent of 12-15-year-olds vaccinated, but we still need to do more to make sure our young people and educators are protected from COVID-19,” he said. “Instituting universal masking mandates to further encourage vaccination rates among everyone in our schools is one measure we can take now.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders also emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated. “Increasing vaccination in our eligible residents is the most important thing we can do to ensure a safe return to the classroom for this upcoming school year,” she said.
Encore breaks a billion bucks
The total revenue for Encore Boston Harbor since opening surpassed the $1 billion mark – and it only took 26 months to get there.
Although the other two casinos in Massachusetts have been open much longer, MGM Springfield and the Plainridge Park Casino were still stuck in the millions.
In terms of monthly revenue, Encore posted $57.8 million for the month of August. Within that figure, $25.4 million came from table games while the remaining $32.4 million came from the slot machines.
In addition, the state received $14.4 million in taxes from Encore in August.
DeMaria cruises to victory in Primary
Mayor Carlo DeMaria topped the ticket in the Mayoral Primary Election on September 21. According to the unofficial results, DeMaria received 2,883 votes while Ward 1 Councillor Fred Capone finished with 1,953 votes. Councillor-at-Large Gerly Adrien finished in third place with 1,499 votes and disappeared from the public eye. DeMaria also had the greatest number of votes of any candidate in the entire Primary.
“I am humbled and honored to have the support of Everett’s voters,” he said. “It is a tremendous honor to serve, but it is an honor I will live up to. Thank you for your continued trust, Everett.”
Although Capone would be the underdog, he vowed to remain confident in the weeks leading up to the General Election. “Team Capone is running a positive, high energy campaign that focuses on the issues facing our community,” he said. “I am so proud of our volunteers and how well everyone has worked together. Thank you to each of them and to all the voters who came out in Tuesday’s Primary.”
In the Ward 4 City Council race, incumbent Councillor Jimmy Tri Le topped the ticket with 604 votes and would face Holly Garcia, who garnered 316 votes. “My family and I are so appreciative and I am so very humbled by the support and vote of confidence that I received from the voters of Ward 4,” said Le. “All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Benjamin Murray finished in third place with 150 votes from Ward 4 residents.
In the race for councillor-at-large, incumbent Councillor John Hanlon received the greatest number of votes with 2,255. Going into November, he would be joined by candidates Irene Cardillo, Councillor-at-Large Richard Dell Isola, James Mastrocola, Allen Panarese, Guerline Alcy, Angelmarie DiNunzio, Kenneth Giannelli, Councillor-at-Large Michael Marchese and Stephanie Smith.
In the at-large race for School Committee, Member-at-Large Cynthia Sarnie easily topped the ticket with 2,562 votes and was the only School Committee candidate with more than 2,000 votes. The other at-large candidates who advanced to November were Berardino D’Onofrio, Ward 2 Member Joseph Lamonica, Margaret Cornelio, Robert Santacroce and Member-at-Large Samantha Lambert.
The results in Ward 6 yielded quite a surprise as Vice Chairman Thomas Abruzzese was defeated by Michael McLaughlin, who topped the ticket with 404 votes. Going into the November 2 election, he would face Catherine Tomassi Hicks, who received 356 votes.
A total of 21,797 residents voted in this year’s Primary, representing 29.2 percent of Everett’s voting population.
New election format
This was also the first election under the new ward-only election format. In prior years, the City Charter stated that ward seats for the City Council and School Committee would be voted citywide. Under the new format, voters can only vote for the candidate running to represent their particular ward.
New signature requirements also took effect. In the ward races, 125 signatures would be required for a candidate to appear on the ballot. In addition, any candidate running for an at-large seat would need to garner 250 signatures. Mayoral candidates would have the tallest task, as they needed 500 signatures. As in years past, 25 of those signatures were needed from voters in each ward.
Mayor files defamation lawsuit against Leader Herald
After enduring years of torment by the Everett Leader Herald, Mayor Carlo DeMaria responded with a robust defamation lawsuit against the slanderous publication.
“As part of their long-running defamatory campaign against Mr. DeMaria, the Leader Herald Defendants have frequently published articles misquoting sources, fabricating quotes and fabricating unnamed sources,” said Attorney Joseph Lipchitz, counsel for DeMaria, in his 100-page Complaint, which was filed on October 7. “Moreover, they frequently publish false and defamatory articles about Mr. DeMaria without providing him with the opportunity to comment or provide information, in violation of professional journalistic standards.”
The turmoil began in the 1990s when DeMaria was on the Board of Aldermen. At the time, Matthew Philbin and Andrew Philbin, Sr. owned and operated several boarding houses that were rife with health and safety violations. Therefore, DeMaria voted time and again not to renew their licenses. His repeated dissenting votes infuriated the Philbins, thus beginning their quest for vengeance.
In 2017 the Philbins purchased the Leader Herald and enlisted Joshua Resnek to publish stories designed to destroy DeMaria’s personal and professional reputations. In the years that followed, Lipchitz said, Resnek published stories falsely accusing DeMaria of taking bribes and being involved in a host of other criminal activities.
On September 15 of this year, Resnek published a story titled “Revelations we cannot quite believe about the mayor…but they are all true.” The article was featured in Resnek’s “Eye on Everett,” a column that consists of his weekly conversations with DeMaria’s “Blue Suit.” This particular column focused on a sexual assault grievance that a former employee filed against DeMaria several years ago. “The article intentionally omitted well-published information that the Chelsea District Court found there was no probable cause for the Complaint, dismissing it in its entirety,” said Lipchitz.
DeMaria’s Complaint also described how City Clerk Sergio Cornelio used the Leader Herald to attack DeMaria regarding the real estate transaction involving 43 Corey St. According to Lipchitz, in May 2019, DeMaria was approached by Zachary Stratis, who was looking to sell the parcel. DeMaria then invited Cornelio to join him in purchasing the property and work in concert to convert the home into a multifamily development. On August 21, 2019, DeMaria and Cornelio purchased the property from Stratis for $900,000. Lipchitz said that for financing purposes the property was purchased in Cornelio’s name; however, DeMaria and Cornelio remained partners in the venture.
Because he is an elected official, DeMaria contacted KP Law to ensure that there would be no ethical violations. On August 20, 2020, Attorney Brian Riley gave his opinion. “It would not violate Chapter 268A for you to acquire an interest in this parcel or to file with a city board or official in your own name to request a permit. In the event that you acquire an interest in the property under a different entity, however, you would need to have an attorney or other representative handle any such application,” he said. “You would also be prohibited from taking any action in your capacity as mayor that would foreseeably affect your financial interest in the parcel.”
Therefore, Riley suggested filing a Disclosure of Appearance of Conflict of Interest. DeMaria filed that document with the City Clerk’s Office on September 23, 2020. “Attorney Riley’s opinion, the State Ethics Commission’s advisory opinion and Mr. DeMaria’s disclosure are all public records and could have been reviewed by the Leader Herald Defendants prior to publishing the articles,” said Lipchitz. “They intentionally chose not to review these filings.”
On April 14 of this year, Cornelio and DeMaria sold the Corey Street property for $1.3 million to 43 Corey Street Everett LLC. “Under the parties’ agreement, Mr. DeMaria [would receive] $96,000 and Mr. Cornelio [would receive] approximately $316,000, an amount which [would reimburse] him for his carrying costs and included his share of the profit,” said Lipchitz.
In the months that followed, Lipchitz said, Cornelio allegedly informed Resnek that he was pressured by DeMaria to give him $96,000 from the sale of 43 Corey St. “Mr. Cornelio knew full well that this was a real estate opportunity founded by Mr. DeMaria, who invited Mr. Cornelio to participate,” said Lipchitz.
However, on September 8, Resnek published a front page story titled “$96,000 Forced Payment to Mayor by City Clerk Raises Questions About Extortion Plot.” This was followed by “The 96,000 Disgrace” on September 10 and “Mayor moves to oust Cornelio: After taking 96k from city clerk in real estate deal” on September 15. “It appears that Mr. Cornelio fabricated a story that Mr. DeMaria extorted and threatened him, peddling the concocted story to the Everett Leader Herald,” said Lipchitz, adding that these stories were published with “actual malice.”
The September 15 story was published six days prior to the Primary Election, in which DeMaria was facing two challengers. “In addition to being a complete fabrication, these false assertions conveyed that Mr. DeMaria had purportedly engaged in criminal conduct by extorting another city official – a devastating assertion to be made in advance of an election,” said Lipchitz. “The Leader Herald Defendants relied solely and exclusively on the purported statements that they attributed to Mr. Cornelio precisely because they were unconcerned with the truth of their articles.”
According to Lipchitz, Cornelio told Resnek that unless the $96,000 payment was made DeMaria would jeopardize the future of Cornelio’s career and slash the City Clerk’s Office budget. “Mr. Cornelio knew full well that there was no extortion and that the $96,000 was simply Mr. DeMaria’s interest in the land sale that they had agreed,” said Lipchitz. “Under Everett’s Charter, it is the City Council – not the mayor – that has ‘charge and control over the Office of City Clerk.’ As a result, Mr. DeMaria has no ability to fire the clerk or reduce his salary.”
In addition to the Leader Herald, Resnek, Cornelio and the Philbins are listed as defendants. Judgement is expected to be rendered by October 2024.
Governor guarantees funding for Mystic River bicycle and pedestrian bridge
Governor Charlie Baker assured state and local officials that money would be available to fund the construction of a Mystic River bicycle and pedestrian bridge. “One way or another it’s going to get paid for and it’s going to get done,” he said during an October 22 press conference at Encore Boston Harbor, adding that the Massachusetts Gaming Commission committed $650,000 to fund the final design. “It’s a huge outdoor opportunity for so many people. We can’t wait to put shovels in the ground to get this bridge built.”
With a price tag of $49 million, the bridge would be 12 feet wide and would span 785 feet connecting Encore with the MBTA Orange Line’s Assembly Station in Somerville. Within the total cost, $37 million would be used to build the bridge and $12 million would be used to construct a new entrance connecting the bridge with Assembly Station.
“Today brings us one step closer to completing the vision of a truly transit-oriented city,” said DeMaria. “I’m totally overwhelmed to be here and to finally get some access to a T station. Getting rid of cars is what we need to do and we’re heading there.” He also said the bridge will be incorporated into the 25-mile Mystic River trail system.
In addition, DeMaria said Everett offered 3,000 units of new housing with the potential for another 15,000 units. However, for that to happen, a series of public transit improvements, such as the electrification of the Commuter Rail, would be necessary.
Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said the bridge was the result of city officials working together. “It’s people giving a damn about where they live and about their city,” he said.
However, he said Somerville’s greatest partnership has been with the DeMaria Administration. “Mayor DeMaria, from day one, has pushed this project,” said Curtatone. “I look forward to this project advancing. Carlo, when I say, ‘come on over to Assembly,’ you can just walk over.”
Kathleen Theoharides, secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said that since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic the usage of parks and trails had skyrocketed by 300 percent. “Getting outside and being active has been a great silver lining of the pandemic,” she said, adding that Baker has invested nearly $1 billion to fund an environmentally-friendly economic recovery.
Theoharides also spoke about the transportation benefit. After missing her exit and arriving at Encore 25 minutes later than expected, Theoharides said, the bridge will be a “great option compared to taking a vehicle.” “We’re trying to find ways to make things more walkable and more bikeable,” she said.
DeMaria still solid with voters
Mayor Carlo DeMaria locked in another four years, narrowly defeating challenger Fred Capone by 210 votes in the General Election. The official results of the November 2 race showed DeMaria with 3,758 votes while Capone received 3,548 votes.
“I’m honored to continue to represent my lifelong home, the city of Everett,” said DeMaria. “We will continue to accomplish our goals of making housing more affordable and transportation more equitable because that is what all our residents deserve. Thank you Everett, I am grateful.”
The mayor’s strongest showing was in Ward 3, where he garnered 789 votes. As with the September Primary Election, DeMaria received the greatest number of votes of any other candidate.
City Council races
Councillor-at-Large Michael Marchese topped the ticket in the City Council at-large race with 3,429 votes. He was followed by Councillor-at-Large John Hanlon with 3,272 votes, challenger Stephanie Smith with 3,266 votes, Councillor-at-Large Richard Dell Isola with 2,119 votes and challenger Irene Cardillo with 2,004 votes.
“I would first like to thank everyone for their faith and confidence in me, who supported and voted to give me the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Cardillo. “My wish is to support and improve on projects that are already in progress to help meet our transportation needs, build infrastructure and develop our untapped resources.”
Smith she said her priorities will include affordable housing, senior services and youth programming. “I’m eager to begin to work with Mayor DeMaria and the other councillors to continue to make Everett a great place to live and work,” she said. “I am humbled by the support I received from the residents of Everett.”
Dell Isola is also looking forward to the new term. “The next two years are going to be very important,” he said. “I’m excited to have colleagues that will work together; we haven’t had that in a while.”
Going forward, Dell Isola said, two major priorities will be to redevelop Glendale and Everett Squares. “There’s no reason, right now, to go to Everett Square or Glendale Square,” he said.
In the ward races, Ward 3 Councillor Anthony DiPierro topped the ticket with 796 votes, easily defeating challenger Darren Costa by 357 votes. In Ward 4, Councillor Jimmy Tri Le was reelected with 757 votes over challenger Holly Garcia, who garnered 462 votes.
“I know a lot of candidates say they are humbled by their election, but I really mean it. Let’s face it, I was lucky two years ago when Councillor McKinnon decided not to run and I was the only candidate left,” said Le. “I did my best to learn quickly about how to be a good councillor. I gave it my all and to receive a vote of confidence, like I did Tuesday, is indeed humbling.”
Unlike in the 2019 race, Ward 5 Councillor Rosa DiFlorio was unable to hold off returning challenger Vivian Nguyen. This year, Nguyen received 716 votes from Ward 5 residents to take DiFlorio’s seat on the council. DiFlorio finished the race with 444 votes.
Ward 6 will have new representation under Al Lattanzi, who received 737 votes. His opponent, Ross Pietrantonio, finished with 385 votes. City Council President Wayne Matewsky ran unopposed and received 696 votes to represent Ward 1. Ward 2 Councillor Stephanie Martins was also unopposed and garnered 778 votes.
School Committee races
The School Committee election was much tighter, particularly in the wards. The closest race was in Ward 2, where Jason Marcus received 494 votes, sneaking by Caitlin Steinberg by a razor-thin margin of 24 votes. The Ward 3 race was decided by 28 votes with Jeanne Cristiano finishing with 604 votes and Samantha Hurley finishing with 576 votes.
“First and foremost, I am humbled, honored and grateful to the voters of Ward 3 for allowing me this incredible opportunity to represent them on the Everett School Committee,” said Cristiano. “I am excited to bring a new, fresh perspective and a strong, independent voice to the Everett School Committee. It’s all about the kids and making sure they have all the tools in the toolbox to ensure lifetimes of success.”
The spread was somewhat larger in Ward 6, where Michael McLaughlin topped the ticket in contested ward races. He finished with 603 votes to defeat Catherine Tomassi Hicks, who received 523 votes. The Ward 4 race had the largest margin of victory with 131 votes. In that race, challenger Michael Mangan received 639 votes to unseat incumbent Member Dana Murray, who finished with 508 votes. In Ward 1, incumbent Member-at-Large Millie Cardello was unopposed and finished with 663 votes. Incumbent Ward 5 Member Marcony Almeida-Barros was also unopposed and received 811 votes.
In the at-large race, incumbent Member Cynthia Sarnie topped the ticket with 3,016 votes. “I just would like to first thank everyone that voted and supported me. I would like to continue working together as a team and working on making our schools safer,” said Sarnie. “I am very interested to see what programs we have in place in regards to addiction, not only for the children but also how to deal with family trauma. I am interested in learning more about the changes that need to be made to help us continue moving our schools in the right direction.”
Incumbent Member-at-Large Samantha Lambert received 2,602 votes and will return for another two years on the committee. She and Sarnie will be joined by challenger Margaret Cornelio, who garnered 2,511 votes.
From Everett’s 22,042 registered voters, 7,348 ballots were cast for a voter turnout of 33.3 percent.
Emergence of Omicron
It only took five days for the Omicron variant of COVID-19 to spread from South Africa to the United States with the first case being confirmed in California on December 1. It was detected in Massachusetts three days later.
“The science and implications of the Omicron variant are actively being examined and we will know more very soon,” said Dr. Lou Ann Bruno-Murtha of Cambridge Health Alliance. “At this time, the best response is to promote COVID vaccination for those not fully vaccinated and encourage everyone who is eligible to seek a booster dose as soon as possible.”
Dr. George Abraham of Saint Vincent Hospital said he was not surprised by the detection of Omicron and the previous strains. “We have predicted and long suspected that we would see variants,” he said. “The variants pop up in parts of the world where there have been the lowest levels of vaccination.”
Abraham also said Omicron may not be that troublesome in the long-term. “Based on preliminary data from our South African colleagues, the number of cases has risen dramatically, about 700-fold, but the number of hospitalizations, serious illnesses and deaths have not increased significantly,” he said. “This suggests that there might be overall mild disease associated with this variant as opposed to severe disease.”
In addition, Abraham said he trusted the efficacy of the vaccines. “We know the vaccines work reasonably well, generating what’s called virus-specific antibodies. But they also generate what’s called a polyclonal response,” he said. “That means it may also work against some viruses in the same family. Right now we need to determine how well our vaccines work against this variant.”
Dr. Shira Doron of Tufts Medical Center said Delta continued to attract a great deal of attention. “Delta is a major threat in Massachusetts. If it manages to outcompete Delta and become predominant, then it could mean a worse winter than what we are already facing. What everyone should do now is get vaccinated if they have not received the vaccine. If eligible for a booster, now is the time to get one.”
School officials vote on amendments to superintendent’s contract
The School Committee voted to approve one of three recommended changes to the employment contract with Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani. The first change, which the committee accepted in a 6-2 vote, removed the following language from the contract: “Should the Superintendent choose to terminate the contract without good cause and leave the employment of the Everett Public Schools to work as a Superintendent in another Massachusetts school district prior to its expiration date, she shall compensate the Committee an amount equal to 10% of her annual salary.”
The proposed amendment regarding grounds for termination was to change “good cause by a majority vote of the School Committee” to “just cause by vote of two thirds of the entire membership of the School Committee.” During the December 6 meeting, Ward 4 Member Dana Murray said changing the language from “good cause” to “just cause” would benefit the committee in the event of a lawsuit. However, the amendment was voted down in a 5-3 decision.
Ward 3 Member-Elect Jeanne Cristiano said it was “bad business” for the committee to take this kind of action so late in the year. “It’s my opinion that it’s a violation of Massachusetts General Law,” she said. “The chairman allowing this on the agenda is an obvious power play. You should not allow a lame duck chairman and most of the School Committee to negotiate the superintendent’s contract this year.”
Chapter 39, Section 6A of the Massachusetts General Laws states: “No increase or reduction in such salaries shall take effect during the year in which such increase or reduction is voted, and no change in such ordinance shall be made between the election of a new council or other legislative body and the qualification of the new council or other legislative body.”
“It is an unethical attempt to circumvent the wishes of the voters of Everett,” said Cristiano. “You’re undermining the voters of Everett who spoke loud and clear on November 2.”
Ward 2 School Committee Member-Elect Jason Marcus was also opposed to any action by the committee. “I was taken by surprise – it looks like you’re hiding something,” he said. “I’m totally against this.”
Ward 6 School Committee Member-Elect Michael McLaughlin said if favorable action was taken, the new committee would not have a say in Tahiliani’s contract going forward. “I urge this body to reject these items,” he said.
In response, Murray, who was also chairwoman of the Ad Hoc Superintendent Subcommittee, said she understood the frustration expressed by the incoming members. “The new superintendent was not chosen by the sitting committee,” she said. “It’s my understanding that these things roll out on their own timeline.”
In addition, Murray said Tahiliani received an “overall proficient” rating when the committee evaluated her job performance. She also said it would be very challenging to find a new superintendent. “Right now, the field of superintendents is very sparse,” said Murray. “Many superintendents are quitting and they’re quitting in droves. The job is very difficult.”
School Committee Chairman Frank Parker said the Ad Hoc Superintendent Subcommittee had been meeting for more than a year to discuss Tahiliani’s evaluation, which then led to the proposed contract changes. “This is part of an ongoing process,” he said.
In a rare 5-5 decision, the School Committee voted, on December 20, not to extend Tahiliani’s contract. Had it passed, the proposal would have moved the contract’s ending date from February 28, 2024, to June 30, 2025.
Prior to the vote, School Committee Vice Chairman Thomas Abruzzese spoke in favor of extending the contract.He also reminded his colleagues about how Tahiliani arrived in Everett three months prior to her original start date.“Superintendent Tahiliani did something that I don’t think people remember,” said Abruzzese. “We were looking to have the superintendent begin in June of 2020. Superintendent Tahiliani made herself available in March of 2020.”
The COVID-19 pandemic struck just nine days after Tahiliani took the helm. “Try to think back as to what kind of situation there would’ve been if we had not had our new superintendent in place,” said Abruzzese. “If Priya Tahiliani is the legacy I’m leaving behind, that’s just fine with me.”
Murray said a contract ending in February would be detrimental to the students. “Educators don’t leave their posts in the middle of the school year,” she said. “It’s never a good idea to have kids with an interim. Stability and permanency is really what makes kids thrive.”
In a follow-up interview, School Committee Member-at-Large Millie Cardello said the Everett Teachers Association (ETA) has been unable to agree on a new contract with its members. “I had to take that into serious consideration,” she said. Therefore, Cardello said, she could not justify extending Tahiliani’s contract when teachers are still waiting for a new contract from the ETA.
Ward 2 School Committee Member Joseph Lamonica said his colleagues who favored the contract extension maintained that Tahiliani had lost a year because of the pandemic. However, it was not enough of a reason for him to cast an affirmative vote. “We all lost a year,” said Lamonica. “Let’s just move forward.”
Tahiliani’s contract took effect on March 1, 2020. At the time, it included an annual base salary of $205,000 as well as $1,500 for a computer to use at home, $75 per month for a cell phone and $3,000 per year for travel expenses. The contract also included an annual annuity payment of $3,000 from the committee as well as 15 sick days per year, 20 vacation days and four personal days.
Also during the meeting, Tahiliani addressed the rumors that continued to circulate about her leaving Everett.“When it comes to my intentions, there is no ambiguity,” she said. “I have no interest in leaving this district. I’m not looking for another job.”
She also said the district has been a leader throughout the pandemic. “As a district, we have progressed at a time when others have stumbled and faltered,” said Tahiliani.
Since becoming superintendent, she said, some of her accomplishments have been establishing Day 6 programs for students, summer programming and the Teacher Diversification pilot program as well as subsidized degree and certification programs. “I still believe that I am the best person to lead this district,” said Tahiliani. “I will stop at nothing for our students.”