The Everett Public Schools (EPS) laid off five houseworkers across the district on Jan. 15 to better address teaching and learning in the district, but one City Councilor believes the layoffs were retribution for a controversial vote.
The EPS said the layoffs had nothing to do with personalities or with the recent vote in December by the Council to make the mayor a voting member of the School Committee. It was an ongoing effort to make sure educators who are providing direct contact to students can be kept, and the houseworkers did not provide that direct contact.
“To best meet the needs of its students, families, and educators, the Everett Public Schools made a modest reduction in staff during the week ending January 15,” read a statement from the schools. “Specifically, the district laid off five houseworkers who support our custodial and maintenance departments. No employee who provides direct services to our students was affected by this decision. Remote and hybrid learning has created numerous challenges and variables, including altered budget priorities and staffing needs. This decision, while regrettable, best positions us to give our students the services and support they need during this unprecedented school year.”
However, Councilor Michael McLaughlin seemed to think there were other motives behind the layoffs, saying that two of those laid off were former Councilor Peter Napolitano’s relatives. He also said such employees are going to be critical if the schools return students to the classroom.
“This action occurred almost immediately after recently announcing that the School Administration was planning to implement a hybrid model bringing students back in person part time,” he said. “It is my belief that this is being done because of retaliation on behalf of the Superintendent based on her dislike of a former member of the Everett City Council who now serves as the Assistant City Clerk. This individual has two direct family members who work in this department who were laid off.”
He said Napolitano had voted for making the mayor a voting member of the School Committee, something the superintendent and several Committee members were against. McLaughlin interpreted the recent action as retaliation, he said.
“The former councilman, Mr. Napolitano, voted to make the Mayor a voting member of the Everett School Committee against the Superintendents wishes,” he said. “In my opinion it is an extremely short-sighted decision.”
School officials reiterated that the layoffs had nothing to do with the issue of the mayor becoming a voting member of the School Committee.