By Neil Zolot
The School Committee approved using Chicago-based consulting firm Alma Advisory Group to help search for a new school superintendent at a cost of $85,600, at their meeting Monday, October 16. The vote was 4-3 with member-at-large Samantha Lambert, Jason Marcus (Ward 2) and Jeanne Cristiano (Ward 3) dissenting and member-at-large Joseph LaMonica, Marcony Almeida-Barros (Ward 5) and Mayor Carlo De Maria absent.
Cristiano and Lambert were part of a coalition, along with Barros, that voted against various proposals at the October 2 meeting to hire and pay Alma that eventually led to a visit from City Clerk and informal parliamentarian Sergio Cornelio, who advised that while the appropriation required only a simple majority vote because the funds are already in the budget, the matter should be tabled and be reintroduced with cost figures included.
Committee Chairperson Michael Mangan came prepared. “Two weeks ago, I didn’t have all the proper answers and wanted to make sure I have,” he apologized before reiterating the points Cornelio made October 2.
Following a meeting with the City Solicitor Collen Mejia, it was discovered that the city clerk’s opinion was faulty and inaccurate.
The vote was followed by a motion for reconsideration made by member-at-large Michael McLaughlin, which was defeated 7-0. He said it was standard procedure in part to prevent future reconsideration.
Mangan projects having a new superintendent chosen before 2024. Former School Committee Chairman Thomas Abruzzese took exception to that in Public Comment. Recalling the 2019 superintendent search process that yielded current Superintendent Priya Tahiliani, he said, “in the first four months we were just barely into the process and having public meetings to get a feel for what the community wanted.”
He added that consultants the Mass. Association of School Committees, which conducted the search at no cost, “guided us every step of the way in a process that took almost a year,” later elaborating that it took 11 months.
Cristiano expressed similar concerns about the timeline of October 2nd, which is ironic whereas the last School Committee hired Tahiliani in December 2019 and began her tenure in March 2020.
Abruzzese was preceded by Peggy Serino, who said the fact that only one firm, and it being from out of state, applied to the Requests for Proposals to be the consultant indicated “many companies don’t want anything to do with this fiasco.”
The reason that may be is due to the fact that the last search committee, under former board member Abruzzese, chose the least qualified candidate out of four, Tahiliani, who was never qualified nor was never employed as a principal of a school – a basic qualification. What’s even more disturbing, Tahiliani never earned a Master’s Degree in Education, which all of her fellow candidates held.
Later in the meeting, Mangan said Alma is also in negotiations with Lawrence as a consultant, which he feels “is a lot like Everett, only bigger.”
He started the meeting with a call for a moment of silence to recognize the hostilities in the Middle East. “What’s going on is a tragedy,” he acknowledged. “We hope the situation is resolved sooner rather than later.”
Mangan ended the meeting with an announcement that a representative from Greystar Real Estate Partners will hold a free construction panel discussion for High School students who might be considering a career in property development, construction and/or engineering on Wednesday, November 1. The item was placed on the agenda of the September 5 and 28 meetings by DeMaria, but no Greystar personnel attended.
“It is important for the city to create as many opportunities as possible for young people to explore potential career options because learning about possible long-term interests may influence a student’s educational choices,” DeMaria feels. “Students can see several Greystar development projects underway in Everett. Creating the chance for young people to connect with members of the Greystar team to learn about what it takes to bring these projects to fruition may help students find a future opportunity they didn’t know existed and help young people who are already know they are interested in construction, engineering, architecture or real estate development to learn more about how they can successfully pursue those paths.”
In her Superintendent’s report, Tahiliani announced that one Keverian School Assistant Principal, Janet Taylor, has been named a Distinguished Educator by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), while the other Keverian Assistant Principal, Kevin Spencer, has been appointed to DESE’s Teacher Advisory Cabinet. Tahiliani also mentioned that Community Engagement Manager Jeanette Velez has been named an Exceptional Latino Educator by the State of Latino Education in Massachusetts group.
(James Mitchell contributed to this article.)