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~ Op-Ed ~ Are Everett Schools heading into Receivership?

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Listening to the chatter around Everett, some say that bringing in a new superintendent mid-year is disruptive to learning and that all changes in administration should happen at the close of the fiscal year on June 30. Changing administration mid-year also provides missed opportunity to review candidates’ full year performance before making a well-informed hiring decision.

Everett’s previous school committee formed a search committee for a new permanent superintendent around June 2019 with the intention of finding somebody before the start of the 2019–2020 school year. By the end of the summer, the search was narrowed down to four candidates, and by December 2019 the final decision was made to hire Superintendent Priya Tahiliani mid-year. If the chatter now is saying it is disruptive to change administration mid-year, why wasn’t it four years ago?

Let’s rewind to March 2020: The world was still normal; our lives were not disrupted by COVID-19 and the previous Everett School Committee gave our current superintendent a start date of March 1. A midyear change in administration was also disruptive in 2020 even though nobody could fathom the disruption to life that was going to happen 10 short days later.

Superintendent Tahiliani’s previous position during the 2019–2020 school year was the Department Head of The Office of English Learners for the Boston Public Schools. During this time the Boston Public Schools were failing and an audit was being conducted by the state Department of Education. In a district like Boston, 85% of the students do not have English as their first language, making the English Language Learners (ELL) department the keystone holding a district together. The director’s job is crucial, and a director ready to take the reins to make it stronger is critical. The ELL section of the state audit, under leadership of Priya Tahiliani, revealed that this was the department that needed the most work. The audit revealed that

  • “The district has not provided English learners with equitable access to high-quality teachers, rigorous coursework, and appropriate supports, and has not ensured that all English learners process both academically and in English language development.”
  • “The district has not provided English learners equitable access to coherent, comprehensive, and consistent services in schools and classrooms.”
  • “Some English learners do not have access to language supports available in their schools”
  • The district’s efforts to support English learners are neither leading to students’ ongoing progress in English language skills nor resulting in improving academic achievement.”

The impact of not providing a rigorous curriculum to English learners by limiting the focus placed on compliance and instruction, opportunities are missed to create environments where all students can learn, grow, and thrive.

Knowing that the Boston Public Schools were under state audit and one of the candidates for superintendent was a director for that district, why was the former Everett School Committee so quick to make a midyear administration change without knowing all of the facts about their candidate…or did they? Their leading candidate was coming from a failing district. Why make a decision so fast if changing administration midyear is disruptive?

The Department of Education’s audit review was completed in November of 2019, and the results were made public in March of 2020. They hired their leading candidate who was responsible for the most underperforming department in Boston.

Priya Tahiliani’s first action was to bring her co-defendant into Everett to work alongside her. Priya and Kim Tsai both left the Boston Public Schools with a lawsuit filed against the Boston School Committee for pay equity to become the Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent, respectively, of the Everett Public Schools. At time of hire, Kim Tsai was not certified to be a superintendent or assistant superintendent. School Committee Chair Tom Abruzzese came up with the title of Deputy Superintendent to circumvent the law. Kim Tsai was hired, not certified, at a cost of $185,000 per year to the taxpayers of Everett. Their combined salaries in 2023 are in excess of $400,000, not including benefits, which could be in excess of $100,000. Are the taxpayers happy paying $500,000 for failing results?

Reading about Tahiliani’s leadership as director of English learners and seeing her year-over-year performance as superintendent of an entire district, the results are the same: failure. In 2019 Everett’s Grade 10 ELL scores were 42 percent; in 2023 the number dropped to 33 percent, while Boston’s increased in the same four years.

Our schools show that we are not going in the right direction under her leadership. As a result, will the Department of Education intervene?

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