December 21 2018,  Everett

School committee places Superintendent on paid leave, pending investigation

Janice Gauthier unanimously appointed Interim Superintendent

By Brendan Clogston

 

The Everett School Committee voted Monday night to place Superintendent Frederick Foresteire on paid administrative leave while the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) conducts its investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by the superintendent. The school committee will also conduct an internal investigation of its own into the allegations, allocating $50,000 for the inquiry.

Curriculum Director Janice Gauthier was unanimously approved to serve as the interim superintendent.

The city was rocked earlier this month when it was reported that former payroll clerk Andrea Garay had filed a complaint with (MCAD) in November, alleging sexual harassment by Foresteire while she worked for the School Department. Boston Attorney Tera Swartz, who is handling Garay’s case, has confirmed that she is also representing a second accuser. Foresteire has denied the allegations, but has declined to comment further while the investigation is ongoing.

The school committee’s decision Monday night had been expected, but the tension was high nevertheless, with committee members clearly at odds with one another and members of the public occasionally shouting to the school committee to “do the right thing.” The school committee retired to a back room for an executive session soon after convening, along with them Foresteire, Mayor Carlo DeMaria as non-voting ex officio member of the committee, Assistant Superintendents Charles Obremsky and Kevin Shaw, Attorney James Tobin, and representatives from law firms Leclaire Ryan and Spruce Law LLC.

For about 90 minutes, the public, teachers and press anxiously awaited the results in the Everett High School library. Activists Gerly Adrien and Jennifer Harelson with the Everett Education Coalition, a group of teachers and local activists founded in the midst of this fall’s school funding dispute, read statement in the interim. calling on city and state officials to speak out and “pursue accountability, and offer timely and transparent action in the face of such serious charges.”

The school committee returned to the chambers without Foresteire and sealed the minutes of their executive session “indefinitely” while the investigation was ongoing. They announced the results of their decisions – the placing of Foresteire on paid leave, the appointment of Gauthier, the allocation of funding for an internal investigation, as well as a vote to contact the Mass Association of School Committees for support and guidance – without released the vote tallies. At School Committee member Frank Parker’s request, the committee took a public roll call vote on Gauthier’s appointment, which was unanimous.

Mayor Carlo DeMaria subsequently released a statement indicating that he “believe(s) the School Committee took the appropriate action (Monday night) by voting to place the superintendent on administrative leave pending a thorough investigation of these allegations.”

Members of the Everett Education Coalition welcomed the results as a step in the right direction.

“I am very happy to see our community stand up for what they believe is right,” said Adrien. “Many students, parents, teachers and staff can feel safer with Superintendent Foresteire being put on paid leave as well as the $50,000 funded investigation. I am sick and tired of hearing about the fear that is being allowed in this city. We need everyone to stand up and fight for what’s right. Power means empowering our community to continue the fight for fairness and justice for everyone. I am happy to see our Mayor Carlo DeMaria take this stance as well, when he was present in saying that the paid leave was the best decision while the MCAD investigation is going on.”

Gauthier, a 48-year veteran of the Everett Public Schools, thanked the committee and teachers for “putting your confidence in me,” and stated that she intended to carry on the work of Foresteire’s administration.

“It certainly is an honor to act as interim superintendent,” said Gauthier. “The plan moving forward is business as usual. Tomorrow, we’re going right back to work, we hit it hard, and move our kids along. Because that’s why we’re here. We’re here for the kids, and we’re going to do our best. Anyone who knows me, also knows that my door is always open. If anyone wants to ask any questions, please feel free. I always respond to emails. I look forward to working collegially with the union, I look forward to working collegially with administrators, principals, assistants, directors, coordinators, and department heads, and the deans at the high school. We’re looking to move the high school forward with the reorganization into being academies, and that’s something very near and dear to my heart. I want to thank you for putting your confidence in me. It’s a tall order. There are big boots to fill. If I only fill the big toe of that boot that Mr. Foresteire set up, then we’re doing something right.”

School committee member Frank Parker praised Gauthier as a “great choice to guide us through this transition.”

“She’s been with us for 48 years, she’s certified, she’s competent, she’s intelligent, she’s full of grace,” said Parker. “A number of years ago, we had a situation where we needed someone to be the principal of the old high school. Mrs. Gauthier stepped up to the plate. Not only did she act as principal at the time, but she retained her directors role. And she took us through that transition. I support her wholeheartedly”

 

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