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Misfits Disrupt

With high hopes for better, more composed School Committee meetings since the inauguration of our new School Committee three weeks ago, some members still want to rehash the turmoil of the last two years. Thursday night’s meeting of the Everett School Committee proved exactly that. The original agenda published on Friday, January 12, for the Tuesday, January 16 meeting, looked straightforward, and it would have been a simple meeting. The meeting originally scheduled for Tuesday night was postponed until Thursday, January 18, due to severe weather. Tuesday a revised agenda was published adding a line item by two new members, Robin Babcock and Joanna Garren, to discuss and vote on the status of the paid administrative leave for former Superintendent Priya Tahiliani. This line item sparked an immediate phone call to Ringling Brothers to get the circus to return to Everett – their exact wish.

Public comment brought a return to the usual circus act of clowns demanding that Tahiliani be reinstated while teachers all insisted on leaving the past in the past and moving forward. Teachers made it clear that more has happened positively for them and the students in the two months since Bill Hart’s installation as superintendent than during the almost four years of Tahiliani’s tenure. The clowns completely disregarded the cost factor to taxpayers and the morale factor for both students and faculty of reinstating the former, controversial Superintendent Tahiliani.

School Committee Attorney Robert Galvin stated that reinstating Priya Tahiliani could impede the investigation of the 10 complaints filed against Tahiliani. What does reinstating Tahiliani say to those 10 faculty members and the rest of the staff?

As Robin Babcock stated, “I firmly believe any and all complaints must be appropriately investigated and the investigation of these complaints should continue, however, that does not mean that Superintendent Tahiliani needs to remain on leave as the investigation continues.” What would that mean for the faculty? Were she and Garren planning to extend Tahiliani’s contract beyond February 29?

School Committee Vice Chairperson and self-proclaimed “professor” Samantha Lambert hypocritically stated, “I think we all agree that every complaint should be investigated whether internally or through an outside investigator if appropriate.” Even though no action or stance has been taken yet on the complaints filed against committee member Lambert’s landlord’s [former School Committee member Tom Abruzzese’s] son. What does that statement say to the parents that made the complaint against Mr. Abruzzese? Is the protection of minors not as important as reinstating a former superintendent who has a salary greater than $200,000 in a city where the median income is $45,000? What are those parents feeling, Mrs. Lambert?

Why did committee members Babcock and Garren amend the agenda with this line item? The answer is easy: Friday night January 12, the Natick School Committee unanimously made a decision to reject the “award-winning superintendent” Priya Tahiliani for the position. She previously withdrew from the Melrose superintendent search when she learned that she was going to be rejected for that position also. Committee member At-Large Samantha Hurley asked the question: “I have a hard time understanding what reinstating Superintendent Tahiliani would do since her contract is up February 29.” Was it their objective to bring her back and extend her contract end date to one unknown? It is their objective to continue the circus act.

Stirred with emotion about reinstating Tahiliani, the three misfits, Samantha Lambert, Robin Babcock, and Joanna Garren’s decision-making is clouded regarding how to move forward and work “for the kids.” It is upsetting to watch Lambert direct Garren on what to say and what motions to make. Their feelings are setting the entire school system up for serious failure regarding the quality of our students’ education.

Margaret Cornelio said it best: “We need to make a decision that is right for our schools, our students, and our community.” For two years we have been hearing the same issues regarding overcrowding, drop in MCAS scores and schools underperforming. These are the issues that we want the School Committee and public participation to address. It has been all talk and no action by the former superintendent and former School Committee. Too much emotion, too much talk and not enough action was the pattern of our previous “award-winning” Superintendent Tahiliani.

Samantha Hurley, committee member At-Large, also agreed, stating, “I don’t want to add to the chaos. I want to look at this in an organizational way, how to move forward in a procedural way, as organized as possible, for our staff to do their jobs.” She also understands that discussing the past at every meeting and blaming the people of the past will not change the future. She wants to discuss ideas that enhance the curriculum.

Mrs. Babcock stated, “We owe it to the school community to engage in this discussion however difficult that may be.” Everyone wants to move on and solve the major challenges our schools are facing. Let’s stop making the past the primary topic of conversation at every School Committee meeting.

Moving forward is not offensive and involves hard decisions. Moving forward should not be based on emotion. The biggest prohibitor currently with our public speakers and three misfit School Committee members (Lambert, Babcock, and Garren) is emotion. Removing individual emotions is the only way to work “for the kids.”

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