School Committee’s Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Subcommittee hears testimony from parents

Last week, Ward 5 School Committeeman Marcony Almeida-Barros called for a meeting of the Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Subcommittee to listen to parent feedback on the Everett Public Schools plan to return to the classroom in a hybrid model.
The meeting came after extensive discussion between the school administration, School Committee, and teachers’ union on the proposed plan. Almeida-Barros said he felt it was important to broaden parent voices at the table by directly hearing their concerns, especially the Special Education and English Learners programs, which form a sizable portion of students in the district.
Joining Almeida-Barros, who chairs and sponsored creating the subcommittee, were Ward 4 School Committeewoman Dana Murray, and At-Large School Committeewoman Samantha Lambert, along with Superintendent Priya Tahiliani and her leadership team. The Subcommittee invited leaders of the Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC), Fernanda Rocha and Flavia Souza, to share their and other parents’ thoughts and concerns about the current remote learning and upcoming hybrid plan.
“Although the district has done a great job with remote learning, the experience for our kids with special education has been very difficult,” said Rocha. “Many children are falling behind with classes over Zoom. They don’t want to turn the camera on and engage in the class, parents that I spoke to have really seen a regression in their kids’ education.”
“I know we are in the midst of a pandemic, but there are other districts around us who are safely doing hybrid classes, and I’m hopeful we can do the same in Everett for the sake of our kids’ mental health,” said Souza, whose son attends the Webster School.
Expressing similar sentiments were parents whose kids are in the English Learners Program.
EPS Lead Family Liaison Mirlande Felissaint and Family Liaison Esthela Borghesan read testimonies from parents who shared their struggles with remote learning. A parent originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo whose son attends the Parlin School shared that his son is losing English skills he was learning before the pandemic because he doesn’t understand what is taught though Zoom.
“He is confused, lost interest in school, and now is back speaking French only,” read the testimony. “My son needs to go back to school.”
Another parent whose kids attend the Parlin and Everett High Schools indicated that her kids’ teachers said that they are not doing well in school and missing classes.
“I don’t know what to do because they don’t want to connect online, and I don’t speak English well enough to be able to speak with the teacher and help my kids. I really hope there’s a way that they can go back to school safely,” read the testimony.
Almeida-Barros said despite the testimony, he remained optimistic.
“We know that there are lots of different opinions and emotions through these conversations, but hearing the voices of those who usually do not have a seat at the table is the goal of this subcommittee,” said Almeida-Barros. “I hope we can continue to work together on a safe path forward, including vaccinations for our educators and other safety measures, so we can slowly go back to in-person classes and help those kids in need. Our staff and students’ safety should always be in the forefront.”

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