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Parents blast school officials over January lockdown chaos

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  Parents aggressively berated school officials and administrators for their lack of transparency and communication regarding the Everett High School lockdown on January 26.

  During the School Committee’s February 7 meeting, parent Michelle Seward described the emotional trauma from that day and how district leaders were not there in a time of need. “You did not witness the sheer terror these kids experienced,” she said. “They saw the news crews, the police, the fire and ambulance all lined up. You know who they didn’t see – any of you.”

  Seward also took issue with the district’s generic statement that the threat was “not credible.” “How dare you downplay the seriousness of this,” she said. “Do something. You have all sat back and watched from afar for way too long.”

  She recalled the incident last October when students from Malden got inside the high school with the intention of starting a fight with Everett students. “Intruders have repeatedly gotten into this school,” said Seward.

  In the weeks that followed, she said, parents were told that additional cameras were being installed and that three success coaches would be hired. “I’m not really sure what these success coaches do or how that success is measured,” said Seward. “None of this has really done anything.”

  Laura Tiberii has a daughter who is a freshman. “She has seen students slammed into lockers, students pulled across cafeteria tables and punched in the face,” said Tiberii, adding that she and other parents have been pushing for tighter security measures. “We want to understand what these solutions are and what the timeline is to get them implemented. It’s now February and we’re still waiting.”

  Speaking about the lockdown, Tiberii said that despite the freezing temperatures, students had to leave their jackets behind as it was unsafe for them to return to their lockers. “We deserve more information than this,” she said.

  Parent Laura Clarke voiced the need for door alarms, digital cameras and metal detectors as well as additional staff monitoring the hallways, bathrooms and stairwells. “Many believed they would die that day,” Clarke said of the lockdown. “The reality was that our children were lucky.”

  She also spoke about the Cambridge Safety Net Collaborative, which has been used in the Cambridge Public Schools since 2007. “This program has become a national model,” said Clarke.

  In response, Police Chief Steven Mazzie said that on January 26 the high school received a call from an unidentified male who claimed he was armed and was seeking vengeance against someone. “That triggered the original shelter in place,” said Mazzie.

  Further communication with the man suggested that he may have entered the high school at one point. “That triggered the lockdown, which in my opinion was the right call to make,” said Mazzie. “I personally came over here myself; I participated in the whole incident.”

  Mazzie also dispelled rumors about a SWAT team being called in. “There was no SWAT team in the building,” he said. “SWAT was never called here.”

  School Resource Officer Stephen Ramunno spoke about the urgency to clear the high school and keep the students protected. “I don’t have my own kids; I have 2,200 in this building and I felt the panic that day,” he said. “Every single one of your kids was my priority.”

  Mazzie said no arrests have been made and that the investigation remains ongoing.

  Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani said she and her colleagues have been working to bolster security measures since last fall. In that time, she said, a Critical Incident Response Plan has been implemented and that a position has been posted for a security director. In addition, Tahiliani said the need was identified for 38 high-resolution cameras and that 20 alarms are being installed on external doors at the high school.

  She also said a card access system will be implemented for staff at all the schools. “All doors will remain locked throughout the day, and employees will have to scan their IDs at one of two doors,” she said.

  Tahiliani said the district is also working with Navigate360 to provide additional Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate (ALICE) training, a federally endorsed safety protocol that was created in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Columbine High School. With this supplemental training, Tahiliani said, building administrators would be appointed as ALICE trainers.

  School Committee Vice Chairperson Michael McLaughlin said he would like to see a schedule for putting these plans into action. “I see a lot of recommendations that the superintendent laid out here tonight, but I don’t see any specific timeline in which those things are going to be implemented,” he said. “A lot more needs to be discussed.”

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Parent Michelle Seward spoke passionately about the breakdown in communication that took place when Everett High School went into lockdown on January 26. (Photo Courtesy of the Everett Public Schools)
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In recognition of the Everett High School Marching Band’s recent performance at the 80th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor, State Senator Sal DiDomenico and State Representative Joseph McGonagle presented the band with citations on behalf of the Legislature and Governor Charlie Baker. The band was also presented with a letter from President Joe Biden. Shown, from left to right are State Representative Joseph McGonagle, EHS Music Department Administrative Assistant Penny Yebba, Ward 1 School Committee Member Millie Cardello, Band Director Eugene O’Brien, Band Member Breetika Maharjan, EHS Music Teacher Mark Sachetta, State Senator Sal DiDomenico, School Committee Chairperson Jeanne Cristiano and Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani. State Senator Sal DiDomenico is credited with securing $200,000 for the band to travel to Hawaii.
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Police Chief Steven Mazzie spoke about the events of January 26 that caused Everett High School to go into lockdown. (Photos Courtesy of the Everett Public Schools)

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