The Everett School Committee meeting on Monday night was highlighted by solidarity – that being the unity of
teachers from across the region who gathered about 100 strong to support teachers in Everett whom they say are being “bullied” by the administration.
That claim was quickly rebutted by Supt. Fred Foresteire after the meeting saying that the packed room was nothing but outsiders trying to bully the administration and School Committee into accepting subpar teacher performance at the Parlin School.
He said they won’t tolerate it and won’t let them water down the schools for Everett students.
“It was a disgrace these outsiders came to Everett and tried to do something like this,” he said. “It was a disgrace that they tried to bully the School Committee, administration, and myself. They are trying to force us to accept a poor performance at the Parlin School. It’s been going on for the last two or three years that the Parlin School was not achieving and it was a result of what teachers weren’t doing. There were no Everett people there tonight. There were no Parlin School parents there supporting what they did.”
In recent weeks, Foresteire and the administration have transferred several teachers from the Parlin, and also brought in a new principal, to try to turn around what they said were multiple years of poor results on the MCAS test. New Principal Michelle Crowell has taken charge of the school and has outlined a plan to turn around the Parlin.
The teachers, however, have a whole different narrative.
The spark for Monday’s meeting – and to some extent the previous meeting in September – came due to two Everett teachers and the Everett Teachers Association (ETA) that have filed grievances for what they say has been retaliation. The two Everett teachers, Marissa Roberto and Alana Russell, who have filed grievances said the retaliation against them is for trying to better organize the union in their buildings. On Monday, some 100 teachers from the region gathered to support them, with about a few dozen Everett teachers also gathered with them.
“This is what solidarity looks like,” Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) President Merrie Najimy told a packed room of teachers while the School Committee and Supt. Fred Foresteire were behind closed doors on Monday to hear the grievances in executive session – as is required by law. “Fear keeps us from speaking out. We can’t let Everett teachers be afraid anymore. The only way we can help people overcome that fear is if they know we are standing with them…”
“We’re here to show solidarity and call for an end to the bullying and contract violations and a recall of the 100 teachers laid off that impacts the ability for Everett educators to provide for their students,” she said earlier.
Teachers were present from Cambridge, Concord, Lexington, Andover, Marshfield, Malden, Danvers, and other districts.
Everett teacher Melanie Peddle said she is standing by the two teachers, whom she said were her friends. She said she doesn’t want to live in fear anymore and needed to speak up.
“I’m here to support some amazing teachers, and these two are good friends of mine and they were unfairly retaliated against for their union affiliation,” she said. “When they filed a grievance, they weren’t given a classroom and made substitute teachers. It’s a shame because the kids deserve better. I’m here because I think it’s time to say we are tired of being afraid and we need to stand up. Enough is enough.”
Najimy said the MTA would be watching to see if comments by Everett teachers like Peddle elicit any retaliation.
After the executive session, Roberto – who taught at the Parlin for 10 years and said she had excellent reviews – said she was not doing this for herself, but for the students and the other teachers.
“This is not just about Alana and me, but about everyone,” she said. “We just want respect and to be treated with respect. We want what is best for the students of Everett and the way we’re being treated is not beneficial for the students at all.”
Roberto’s husband, Joshua Steinberg, also works for the schools and is a lifelong Everett resident. He has been helping his wife and said she did not deserve to be re-assigned from the Parlin based on her teaching.
“She’s not alone,” he said. “It’s about what’s happening in this city for 30 years. Many other teachers have suffered from this.”
But Foresteire and his administration said afterwards that the issue has been totally confused. He said he heard that the crowd showed up on Monday night because they had all been allegedly offered free pizza by the ETA at Bertucci’s in Medford.
“We have 10 buildings and teachers in all those buildings and we have unions working in all those buildings,” he said. “They’re not going to talk about the fact the students did not achieve in their building. They say we’re bullying them because we pay them $100,000 a year and want them to produce…The disgrace is the ETA and the MTA is supporting these non-performing individuals…Look at their results.”
He said that Roberto and Russell specifically had students not achieve, were allegedly vocal against the principal, and opposed consultants that came into the classroom to help students read.
“They blocked them from coming into the classroom,” he said, referring to consultants from the Bay State Reading Initiative. “Why do you think they didn’t have any Parlin parents up there supporting them?”
ETA President Kim Auger said she couldn’t talk about the specific grievances, and indicated after the executive session that they didn’t have any decision yet.
She said she believed in the ability of the two teachers.
“As a teacher and as a parent, Marissa was my daughter’s teacher and I can say she was amazing,” said Auger. “Both of these teachers are teachers that do whatever is best for their children. They are teachers anyone would want for their own children…We are moving this forward. We only want a fair and clear path to making the best school ever for our students.”
Foresteire asked to keep in mind that Everett’s schools achieve well on the MCAS and in other measurables. That, he said, takes hard work over a long period of time. He said the Parlin School was not performing, and part of the hard work is making decisions to change things for the betterment of the students.
“All of our schools are Level 1 or 2,” he said. “No other community can say that. That is the result of hard work, of teachers coming in doing what they have to do and adjusting their presentation so students can understand. If you’re going to maintain that, it takes hard work.”