Looking for Answers – Wellness Center director resigns amidst questions about her qualifications

Wellness Center Director Karen Avila has resigned from her position as of Tuesday afternoon amidst continuing questions about her stated qualifications – among them earning a master’s degree from Tufts University in nutrition.

City officials confirmed late on Tuesday afternoon that Avila had resigned from her position as the director of the Center – a position she has held since it opened in March 2016. The resignation came after a few days of questions about the legitimacy of Avila’s qualifications, and that came amidst concerns for months about the work culture at the Wellness Center.

Avila’s position entails overseeing the nutrition and meals program, as well as the athletic training and fitness center operations in the Old High School.

Questions began to surface on Monday – and even prior – about whether her qualifications and certifications as a nutritionist and dietician were up to date. Avila has stated that she has a Master’s Degree in nutrition from Tufts University and that she is a Registered Dietician (RD).

It was questioned whether or not she needed a state nutritionist or dietician license as well, but those licenses were not required for the Wellness Center job.

An inquiry by the Independent with Tufts University did not reveal any initial records of Avila (or her maiden name Karpenko) having graduated with a master’s degree from Tufts. A spokesperson from the university said they checked all of the initial places, including electronic records from several of the schools, and even had searched the paper records from several of the schools, but had found nothing yet by press time.

That search did continue for a record of her degree after press time. It was a degree that was stipulated in her tag line on all official communications under the letters “MS.”

It was confirmed on Monday that Avila had let her RD certification expire in August as she did not take the continuing education classes to keep the certificate current. So, at the end of August, it did lapse. On Monday, she had indicated through a spokesman that she intended to take the courses to make her RD certificate current. However, that was no longer applicable on Tuesday after her resignation.

Avila declined to comment on the situation.

City officials would not comment on the matter other than to say she had resigned. They indicated that they are legally prohibited from speaking about personnel matters to the public, and thus could not comment any further on her situation.

Councilor Michael McLaughlin said he was sad to see the situation unfold in the manner it did, but he said he had to raise the issue for the sake of the people of Everett who use the Center. He said he first heard that Avila’s qualifications might not be accurate late last week.

After he asked several questions about the matter, he said he wasn’t getting the answers he hoped for.

He said he felt betrayed and was very disappointed the matter came out this way.

“I am surprised beyond words to know this news that someone the administration put its faith and blind trust in treated our community with such disrespect for the law and for the residents of our community,” he said. “I believe she should have been fired and should have not had the opportunity to resign. She should be held to whatever standards are in place for such offenses she has committed.”

McLaughlin had planned to put the matter on the City Council calendar for this coming Monday in order to try to get answers. He said one of the items on the calendar calls for everyone in every City department to prove their certification.

“That’s more important than ever now,” he said. “I think every employee with any certification should in the next 30 days prove they have the documents they need to do their job. I’m going to be introducing that on Monday at the Council.”

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