In another quiet and quick change to the City Charter, the City Council is looking to next Monday to change the number of seats on the School Committee – bringing one more seat on to make it potentially 11 members instead of nine.
The matter would likely have been debated and voted on Monday night with little notice to the public on the change had there not been more technical issues at the Council meeting that forced them to adjourn before addressing that matter.
The move is sponsored by four City Councilors and is in response to the Council recently voting to add the mayor to the School Committee – a request that is now being considered by the State Legislature. By adding the mayor, it created an even number of votes and allowed a tie vote to happen. With the 11th member, the possibility of a tie would no longer be an issue.
It is a major change that the Councilors felt would help out the School Committee once the mayor became a voting member next year.
“From watching the School Committee Meetings during the past couple months, it was evident that if the Mayor became a voting member, then an additional member should be added to make the total number 11,” said Councilor Anthony DiPierro. “This was not only their request, but the proper thing to do. The discussion has been ongoing for months now and I do not see the need to kick the can down the road and hold it up in committee.”
Said Councilor Stephanie Martins, “I have been very vocal to all involved about how I don’t feel comfortable voting for changes that affect another body without their input. During the School Committee meeting where the changes were presented by the City Clerk, the members mentioned the need for the piece to be worked on before it could be passed. The Charter Change was passed without the opportunity to send the item to committee and hear from the members so we could fine tune it. I personally support adding any new members only after the elections in 2021. However, if the addition happens halfway through now, I could not be happier if the new member were to be Dan Skeritt.”
Councilor Michael McLaughlin was also a sponsor, and said he talked with many people who supported the move, and he called on the State Delegation to support the change – as well as his fellow councilors.
“After speaking with well over 100 residents largely in support of the position of Mayor being a voting member of the School Committee, many of those same individuals asked me to do my best to make sure there wouldn’t be an even number of seats on the Committee,” he said. “Also after speaking with former and current members of the School Committee and School Administration it became extremely clear that this was the right direction to go in. It is the reason why I joined efforts with several of my colleagues to offer the Charter amendment and include the 11th position.”
Already, though, Councilor Fred Capone said he is against any Charter Change that doesn’t go to the people for a vote.
“We can’t go pick and choose what we like, but nobody seems to get that or care,” he said. “The Charter is the people’s business and especially a Charter Change of that magnitude. This one goes right to the core. This has to go to the people.”
School Committeeman Frank Parker said he is the one that suggested an 11th member during and informal discussion at a School Committee meeting recently, but said by no means was it a request for the Council to take such severe action. He said he is only one member, and even he doesn’t support the amendment as proposed.
That is why he said he moved for the Council to send any such action to Committee so the School Committee could join in that discussion.
“Yes I do support adding an 11th member to get an odd number, but I don’t also support it happening in 2022 and not right now,” he said. “There needs to be open communication and dialog and not just a few councilors watching a School Committee meeting and pickup up on something I say and running with it…I’m Frank Parker and not the whole School Committee…That’s why I asked for anything like this to go to a Committee so we could have a conversation. It’s not about Frank Parker, but it should be about the students and families.”
City Clerk Sergio Cornelio said the matter is being brought by four councilors and it would be heard next Monday. He said it would probably be included as an amendment along with another Charter Change for Ward-only voting that is on the same docket. He said there has been a lot of negative comments about the Charter Changes lately, including this one to make an 11th member. He said there are two processes to change the charter and this is one, and taking it to the ballot is the other. It doesn’t, however, mean this process by a Council vote is wrong.
“It is the people’s document, but so is every ordinance too,” he said. “The place of the City Council is to vote on all legislation – Charter Changes too. In every other City, 90 percent of the Charter Changes are done by the City Council and sent to the Legislature. This is one process and the ballot is another process…It’s not underhanded…This is just a process and I understand some people are upset about it and that’s their right. It’s done like this everywhere though. It’s not just an Everett thing.”
Cornelio said it would likely mean, if approved, that the runner-up in the last at-large election, Dan Skeritt, would now join the School Committee. He estimated that the mayor would likely be approved and join the Committee in February or March. At that time, Skeritt would also join – if approved on Monday – at the same time.
At the same time as the 11th person being added, the School Committee is also getting a change for the time one needs to be out of office to take a City or School position. Right now, the School Committee requires a one-year “cooling off” period before one can take such a job. However, the State Law and City Council rules only require 30 days. Now, a Change is being proposed to make the School Committee 30 days as well to keep everything consistent.