By The Advocate
The School Committee is expected to hold an executive session during their meeting Monday to discuss the sexual harassment allegations filed with the state against Superintendent Fred Foresteire. Whether the School Committee will publicly address the allegations next week is not yet known.
It was revealed last week that former payroll clerk Andrea Garay filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) last month alleging sexual harassment by Foresteire while she worked for the School Department. Foresteire had denied the allegations, but has declined to comment further while the investigation is ongoing.
“It will have to run its course,” he said last week. “It’s been sent to the MCAD, and we’ll have to let that run through its process.”
A number of city and school department officials released statements after the news broke.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria stated that “as mayor, I take this allegation very seriously. I trust that MCAD will do a thorough investigation in a timely manner.”
City Council President Peter Napolitano read a statement on behalf of the council during their meeting Monday night, stating, “The City Council takes the Allegations of Sexual Harassment against Superintendent Foresteire very seriously and we as a body hope that MCAD investigate these allegations thoroughly and in a timely manner. The Everett School Committee are the Authority of School Department issues and we believe that they will handle this internal matter immediately and appropriately.”
School Committee Chairperson Berardino D’Onofrio issued a statement that, while it declined to “comment on any of the particulars” of the case while it is investigated, asserted that “during his career as Superintendent over 1,000 employees: administrators, teachers, teacher aides, secretaries, cafeteria workers and custodians have left School Department employment and not one single complaint has been made about the Superintendent.”
However, other School Committee members were more cautious. Frank Parker stated that “as an Everett School Committee member, I strongly feel it is incumbent upon us, given the seriousness of the recent allegations, to meet and discuss the best course of action. This should be our first and foremost priority at this time. The best interests of the students, staff, and families of the Everett Public Schools is, and will remain, my prime concern. To quote Abraham Lincoln, ‘I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.’”
School Committee Member Marcony Almeida Barros released a statement on Facebook, expressing his confidence “that the allegations made against Superintendent Foresteire will be fully investigated by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. They are serious and disheartening, and any allegation needs to be thoroughly investigated. However, the families of the Everett school system must have full confidence that the School Committee also takes such allegations seriously. For this reason, I ask that we reserve time to discuss the matter at the next School Committee meeting.”
A protest organized by the Everett Education Coalition was held outside City Hall on Monday night before the City Council meeting. The group is asking that Foresteire be put on paid administrative leave while the investigation is conducted.
“I ask you all, ‘What are you doing to make sure our city is safe, particularly for our students?’” said Gerly Adrien on behalf of the protestors during the council’s public participation session. “I was saddened to hear the chair of the School Committee, before the start of the actual investigation, already dismissed how an Everett resident felt in the workplace that has been funded by City Council. I would hope that our mayor, serving as an ex officio non-voting member of the School Committee, would recommend an administrative leave with pay until the investigation is over – for the sake of our staff, our teachers, our parents and our students – to ensure that there is fairness and transparency. As City Council members, part of your responsibility is to ensure that everyone as a resident feels safe, make sure that you address any complaints or needs, and also to represent the community to other levels of government. I hope that you will stand up to ensure that the right thing is being done.”
The next School Committee meeting is on Monday, December 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the Everett High School Library.