In the spirit of transparency, School Committee Vice Chairperson Michael McLaughlin recently suggested implementing a 90-day hiring freeze on positions that are not “classroom-related.” “This is to give us the opportunity to look at where the School Department is going,” he said during the committee’s January 18 meeting.
In response, Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani called attention to the district’s staffing problem. “We certainly are seeing that there is a staffing shortage,” she said, adding that hiring continues to be a challenge. “For every five to 10 offers we put out, we get several rejections.”
Ward 5 School Committee Member Marcony Almeida-Barros was opposed to implementing a hiring freeze. “We are not asking for positions that go beyond our budget,” he said. “Our students need help at this moment.”
School Committee Member-at-Large Samantha Lambert said the committee should not be responsible for taking such action. “I cannot support this,” she said. “Our role is not operations; we are a body that runs on policy governance. We have open positions that we desperately need to fill.”
Therefore, the item was amended so that a hiring freeze would not affect the 27 positions currently posted on TalentEd. The committee voted 7-2 to refer the item to the Finance Subcommittee.
McLaughlin also proposed a 90-day salary freeze for nonunion employees who are not under contract. “Teacher contracts are not settled,” he said. “It’s only fair that we settle those contracts first.”
That matter was also referred to the Finance Subcommittee following an 8-1 vote.
In addition, McLaughlin requested copies of certifications for employees who are assistant principals and higher. “Things could slip through the cracks very easily,” he said, adding that there has been much confusion during the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s a good level of transparency.”
However, Lambert reminded her colleagues that the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) posts those certifications online. “This is all public information,” she said, adding that a significant number of emergency licenses have been issued throughout the pandemic.
Lambert also said that reviewing certifications is a personnel matter. “This is going outside of our scope,” she said.
However, Ward 4 School Committee Member Michael Mangan said the certification of senior administrators has been a top concern, particularly among parents at the Lafayette School. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking,” he said. “I wholeheartedly support this.”
The committee voted 8-1 to revisit the matter on February 28 in executive session.
In other news, Tahiliani said that from January 1-17, 473 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in children ages 0-19. “We had a huge spike in cases and that’s only the first half of January,” she said. By comparison, a combined total of 204 cases were reported during the last two months of 2021.
Therefore, Tahiliani contacted DESE to ask about switching to hybrid or remote learning. However, she was told that Everett’s numbers were “on par” with other districts and that it was not necessary to deviate from in-person learning.
Regarding vaccination rates, Tahiliani said 14 percent of students ages 5-11 have been fully vaccinated. This is in addition to 66 percent of students ages 12-15 and 71 percent of students ages 16-19.
Everett High School cleaning service
Tahiliani said the district received three bids from companies to provide overnight cleaning services at Everett High School. She said the job was ultimately awarded to MP Cleaning Services, which has previously been at the high school. Tahiliani said the cost of the cleaning service will be $27,000 per month.