In a rare 5-5 decision, the School Committee recently voted not to extend the employment contract of Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani. Had it passed, the proposal would have moved the contract’s ending date from February 28, 2024, to June 30, 2025.
Prior to the vote, Vice-Chairman Thomas Abruzzese spoke in favor of extending the contract. He also reminded his colleagues about how Tahiliani arrived in Everett three months prior to her original start date. “Superintendent Tahiliani did something that I don’t think people remember,” said Abruzzese during the committee’s final meeting of the year on December 20. “We were looking to have the superintendent begin in June of 2020. Superintendent Tahiliani made herself available in March of 2020.”
The COVID-19 pandemic struck just nine days after Tahiliani took the helm.
“Try to think back as to what kind of situation there would’ve been if we had not had our new superintendent in place,” said Abruzzese. “If Priya Tahiliani is the legacy I’m leaving behind, that’s just fine with me.”
Ward 4 School Committee Member Dana Murray said a contract ending in February would be detrimental to the students. “Educators don’t leave their posts in the middle of the school year,” she said. “It’s never a good idea to have kids with an interim. Stability and permanency is really what makes kids thrive.”
In a follow-up interview, School Committee Member-at-Large Millie Cardello said the Everett Teachers Association (ETA) has been unable to agree on a new contract with its members. “I had to take that into serious consideration,” she said. Therefore, Cardello said, she could not justify extending Tahiliani’s contract when teachers are still waiting for a new contract from the ETA.
Ward 2 School Committee Member Joseph Lamonica said his colleagues who favored the contract extension maintained that Tahiliani had lost a year because of the pandemic. However, it was not enough of a reason for him to cast an affirmative vote. “We all lost a year,” said Lamonica. “Let’s just move forward.”
Also during the meeting, Tahiliani addressed the rumors that continued to circulate about her leaving Everett.“When it comes to my intentions, there is no ambiguity,” she said. “I have no interest in leaving this district. I’m not looking for another job.”
She also said the district has been a leader throughout the pandemic. “As a district, we have progressed at a time when others have stumbled and faltered,” said Tahiliani.
Since becoming superintendent, she said, some of her accomplishments have been establishing Day 6 programs for students, summer programming and the Teacher Diversification pilot program as well as subsidized degree and certification programs. “I still believe that I am the best person to lead this district,” said Tahiliani. “I will stop at nothing for our students.”
New cleaning company for Everett High School
In other news, the committee voted unanimously to allow the administration to go out to bid for a new overnight cleaning company at Everett High School.
Maintenance Director Steven Bond said the recent TikTok Challenges have caused students to become increasingly destructive. “The bathrooms, this year, have been destroyed,” he said, adding that the damage is “much worse than in years past.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said action needs to be taken sooner rather than later. “It seems like an issue; it seems like a problem,” he said. “This is something we shouldn’t be fooling around with.”
He also suggested bringing house matrons back to the high school. “This is a poor time to cut that service,” said DeMaria.
Tahiliani said the district stopped working with the prior cleaning company as very few students and staff were in the building at the height of the pandemic. However, those needs have changed drastically as there are now approximately 2,400 students and staff in the building during the week. Tahiliani also said it would be more cost-effective to hire an outside cleaning company rather than to hire additional custodial staff. Until a cleaning company is hired, she said, Bond has built in overtime compensation for “intensive cleaning” on the weekends.