The controversy between the Everett Teachers Association (ETA) and the School Department intensified a bit this week when the teachers claimed that the schools had been heavy-handed in calling the police on them when they were gathering before in the parking lot of the Parlin School on Sept. 25.
It’s a claim soundly refuted by Supt. Fred Foresteire who told the Independent they did ask the police to go by the school, but only because Internet accounts looked to suggest a large crowd might be assembled.
Foresteire said it was all about safety.
“They put an e-mail out encouraging people to come there and display unity with them,” he said. “We didn’t know who was coming. It could have been like what you saw at the School Committee last Monday where you had so many people so poorly behaved. We weren’t sure, so we asked a cruiser to go there and when they got there and saw what was going on, they left…The Parlin School is our property and we do have kids coming and going. Safety is an issue. We didn’t know who or what would be there. Safety and security is the bottom line and we didn’t know what to expect.”
In a letter to the Independent, signed by ETA President Kim Auger, the teachers alleged that on Sept. 25 they invited the president and vice president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association to the parking lot of the Parlin School. At the time, many changes were being made there by the administration to try to improve the school success. Auger said the administration got wind of the “donuts and coffee” meeting, and called the police on them as a bullying tactic.
“We asked them to join us in the parking lot of the Parlin School to greet staff as they entered the building,” wrote Auger. “We gave them coffee and doughnuts and an opportunity to share their concerns. Three police officers showed up and allegedly told us that the school administration claimed that we were ‘picketing’ and would have to disperse. That’s nonsense. We have every right as both citizens and union leaders to talk to our members. We left the lot as ordered, but we will not be silenced.”
As a result of that incident, other district teacher unions have gotten wind of the incident and have held coffee and donut sessions in their parking lots, pointing out on each occurrence that the police hadn’t been called.
“Everett educators do an excellent job despite the hostile work environment that too many of us face,” she wrote. “There is a well-known saying: ‘A fish rots from the head down.’ If there are problems in some of our schools, including high teacher turnover, look first to the school and district leadership.”
Foresteire said the allegation of harassment is baseless, and noted that if there had been a large crowd, it could have frightened the children or their parents.
“You don’t know who or what you’ll draw there when you put out such an invitation,” he said. “It was about safely.”
A police report indicated at 7:10 a.m. School employee Charles Obremski called the station to as for the police to check out the situation in the back of the Parlin. An officer was dispatched there and found a group of about eight individuals standing by the handicap ramp to the Parlin. The officer found several teachers waiting to go inside and two MTA representatives that had been invited by the ETA.
“I advised the group of individuals the school administration wanted them removed from the property,” read the report. “The teachers said they would be entering the building shortly and the union representatives would be leaving the property at the same time.”
The situation lasted approximately nine minutes, when the officer radioed in that the situation was under control and he cleared the scene.