By Neil Zolot
School Superintendent Priya Tahiliani announced that representatives from the state School Building Authority (MSBA) will be touring the High School as part of the city’s application for aid to build a new high school. “They’ll look at the physical condition of the school and how that might impact the delivery of education,” she said at the School Committee meeting on Monday, August 28. “It will be many years before a new High School will open but, hopefully, this signals the beginning of cooperation between the MSBA and Everett.”
An MSBA response to a Statement of Interest by a community triggers a complete assessment of its school system and can lead to realignment. Although dating only back to 2007, the High School is overcrowded. It was built to hold 1,800 students, but 2,200 attended last year. There is no Middle School; K-8 students attend neighborhood schools throughout the city. “Overall, we’re in pretty good shape,” Tahiliani said. “The main issue is space.”
A number of remarks in Public Comment referred to overcrowding. “Our children are starting another year in overcrowded classrooms when Pope John’s just sits there,” retired teacher Peggy Serino said in reference to the closed Catholic school on Broadway.
Millie Cardello and science teacher Nancy Cianchetta also talked about overcrowded classrooms. Cianchetta feels the current alignment needs expansion.
Most of Public Comment was reaction to the School Committee decision to not renew Tahiliani’s contract from a sort of politically motivated peanut gallery of citizens that attend and speak at many meetings. Some have pulled papers to run for office. “What is the reason she is being forced out right before the start of the school year and an election?” Joanna Garron asked, although Tahiliani could serve until her contract ends in March unless a decision is made to buy out her contract. “Focus on what is best for the students and city.”
“What makes your opinion more valuable than others in rating the Superintendent?” Paula Sterite asked the School Committee, which dovetailed with Janice Lark’s remark to the members: “You rated her high in your evaluation. Students and taxpayers are telling you they want to keep the Superintendent.”
“Anyone who has worked has probably had an annual job review,” Lillian Gorman added. “After receiving satisfactory scores, I’d assume my job was safe, not being voted out before my contract expired.”
Sterite also admonished some members for accepting support from former Superintendent James Hanlon in their election campaigns despite him having been in jail for indecent assault and battery. She would like to have a Superintendent “who can’t be bought or manipulated. In Everett, that’s a rarity.”
“It’s silly to look at her tenure and say nothing good came of it,” Cianchetta said of Tahiliani. “She’s given us the best she had to offer and saw us through the pandemic.”
“Many parents are upset why the School Committee is looking for a new Superintendent so close to the start of the school year,” Cardello added. “They fear there’ll be disruption. They don’t understand why you want to get rid of her. The children love her. You can’t blame one person for low MCAS scores. There are many reasons for low scores.”
She also feels “We can state our case in a civil manner” and asked, “What are we showing our children?”
Speakers also objected to being called clowns in a local newspaper. “To call citizens clowns is totally inappropriate,” Gorman feels.
“I am disgusted a local newspaper is resorting to name-calling,” Wendy Poste offered.
“I love clowns,” Serino joked.
She also said, “Last week’s paper took a shot at what the Superintendent majored in” and alluded to “the person who wrote the article and who they wrote it for,” without elaborating.
Matters brought up in Public Participation are not subject to debate or discussion at the same meeting. It would violate Open Meeting Law regulations to discuss a matter not on the agenda because there’s no advance notification to the public the matter is being discussed or something decided. Usually, the subject is placed on an agenda of a subsequent meeting.
“Everybody is entitled to their opinion,” School Committee Chair Michael Mangan said. “I respect that.”
Tahiliani had no comment.
In other developments, Class of 2024 student Sal G. DiDomenico, son of State Senator Sal N. DiDomenico, attended his first School Committee meeting as Student Representative. “I want to bring a student voice to the School Committee and have students involved in local government,” he said.
His friend and classmate Benjamin Brag said DiDomenico becoming Student Rep was “not unexpected.”
“I’m very proud of him,” State Senator DiDomenico said of his son. “He’ll be a valuable member of the School Committee.”
“I’m sure he’s up to the task,” Mangan added.