By Tara Vocino
EVERETT – After some cross debate, the School Committee voted 6-3 to form a School Superintendent Selection Process during Monday’s School Committee meeting at Everett High School.
Ward 4 School Committee Chairman Michael Mangan, who put forth the motion, asked if anyone would like to comment.
Starting the discussion, School Committee At Large member Samantha Lambert said it’s premature to implement a search.
“We heard from numerous students, and they deserve to have a say,” Lambert said. “I urge anyone considering voting for this to pause, reconsider, and vote this down.”
Ward 5 School Committee member Marcony Almeida Barros asked to hear Mangan’s side. Mangan said Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani has done a good job of trying to find school space, adding he’s in agreement with her about choosing the former Pope John High School site as an option.
“I’ve done a lot of thinking, and it wasn’t an easy decision,” Mangan said. “I was hoping some new dialogue with her would open up since budget hearings last month.”
Mangan met with Tahiliani for approximately two hours, and Mangan said she’s disappointed in not waiting until after the 2024 election. He was quick to note that Tahiliani would be able to apply for the position.
“None of us may be here in November,” Mangan said. “We’d be sworn in January, and her contract is up at the end of February.”
Looking at surrounding communities, choosing a superintendent is a 4-to-5-month process, according to Mangan.
Barros said since Tahiliani’s contract doesn’t expire until the end of February, starting this process is premature.
“It’s unexpected, surprising and shocking,” Barros said. “She received good evaluations from us and the student body, so are we pushing her out?”
Ward 3 School Committee member Jeanne Cristiano said six weeks ago, the School Committee gave her a proficient rating, and now they want to tell her to get lost?
“I think she’s fabulous, visionary, and connects with students like we’ve never seen before,” Cristiano said. “I think we should have community meetings this summer to see what other people think of her.”
School Committee member Cynthia Sarnie asked Mangan to explain the process.
Since the Mass. Assoc. of School Superintendents and the Collins Center at UMass/Amherst chose to sit this one out, they’d have to find an alternate search firm. It could take a month or so to find a screening committee. The process would involve public hearings, a screening committee, who would select 2-4 finalists to be presented before the School Committee.
Ward 1 School Committee member Millie Cardillo asked what Mangan meant about exclusion. He said although he wasn’t there, certain candidates were told not to apply. Cardillo said the chair at that time said internal candidates wouldn’t be considered.
Lambert made a motion, seconded by Barros, to refer this to the next elected School Committee in 2024. The motion was defeated, 6-3.
“The public made it clear at that time that they were looking for someone outside Everett,” Lambert said. “It was a trust issue.”
Cristiano asked why the Collins Center and Mass. Association of School Superintendents didn’t want to become involved. Mangan said they said “they’d sit it out,” but they didn’t elaborate as to why.
“I’m concerned about spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayers money,” Cristiano said. “I used to work in the private sector, so I know how much these headhunters’ cost.”
Barros said if two organizations who normally help out with the selection process are choosing to lose money by not getting involved, shame on the School Committee.
“They’re rejecting money, because it’s so bad what this body is trying to do,” Barros said. “They hire superintendents across the commonwealth — shame on us.”
However, Ward 1 School Committee member Millie Cardillo thought this vote was imperative.
“You need time to go forward with this,” Cardillo said. “I remember sitting at the library, and no one had made any suggestions.”
Cristiano asked Mangan what an outside agency would know about hiring someone in Everett. Mangan said the two agencies would likely charge a fee.
Ward 6 Vice Chairman Michael McLaughlin said he’s enjoyed working with Tahiliani, adding members are making it personal when it’s not.
“It doesn’t exclude her from the process,” McLaughlin said. “Mangan said she could apply.”
He feels an outside agency should come in to help choose. Cristiano asked if he was looking at her instead of the room as a whole while talking. McLaughlin said that wasn’t his intention.
McLaughlin said Mangan’s request was thoughtful and well laid out.
Lambert asked if members are afraid of what voters want.
“What’s the rush?” Lambert said. “You’re bad at keeping secrets.”
She was quick to note she was looking at Mangan because he’s the chair, and not at him personally. Mangan said he’s not afraid, and he ceased debate.