Special to the Independent
In a resounding display of respect and admiration from her colleagues throughout the Commonwealth, Everett Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani has been honored with a 2022 President’s Award by the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (M.A.S.S.).
“It was a special occasion made all the more meaningful by the fact that I shared the moment with members of my Central Office team and School Committee Chairperson Jeanne Cristiano,” said Tahiliani, who received the award at the M.A.S.S. Spring Meeting in Marlborough. “People are taking note of the great work we are doing, and the example we are setting. It was incredibly satisfying to accept this honor on behalf of the Everett Public Schools.”
M.A.S.S. is the only statewide organization devoted to advocating and supporting superintendents and assistant superintendents. In addition to holding meetings, events, and seminars throughout the year, M.A.S.S. oversees a New Superintendent’s Induction Program. Tahiliani is completing the three-year program under the tutelage of former Chelsea Superintendent and current M.A.S.S. Director of Government Relations Mary Bourque.
During the awards ceremony, Tahiliani was introduced by M.A.S.S. President Tim Piwowar, superintendent of the Billerica Public Schools. He credited Tahiliani for confronting “ the hopes and fears of a school system and community aspiring to transform and be better on behalf of students and families while also facing those in the community who are of privilege and who fear and resist change.”
Piwowar added, “In a school system where 80 percent of the students are non-white and yet, the governance structures are largely white, she fearlessly called out racial injustice and inconsistencies between what is professed by city and school district leaders and what is practiced,” Piwowar remarked. “Many times, her highlighting these moral and ethical disparities in behavior played out in public media.”
Superintendent Tahiliani began her tenure in March of 2020, just days before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the nation’s educational system to a standstill. In the intervening two-plus years, she has led significant changes across every major facet of the district. Some district highlights include:
• Technology for every student in the district
• Free summer enrichment programs
• Expanded summer academic programming at multiple elementary schools
• Establishment of Acceleration Academies during vacation weeks
• Day 6/Saturday Program to help former students complete their coursework and earn an Everett High School (EHS) diploma
• First-ever College Fair at EHS
• EHS partnerships with Fisher College and the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology
• EHS-Everett Police Department internship program
• Establishment of a Debate en Espanol team at EHS
• Language-based English Learner Parent Advisory Committees
• Multilingual Tech Goes Home, language, and literacy program for parents
• A revamped and unbiased hiring process that includes search committees and scoring rubrics
• Greatly enhanced educational opportunities and partnerships for paraprofessionals and staff members to enter the teaching profession
• Expanded supports for teachers who want to pursue school administration licenses
• Comprehensive curriculum review teams made up of teachers, building leaders, and administrators
• Participation in the state’s Teacher Diversification Program
• A revamped budgeting process that stresses inclusivity and transparency
• Aggressive and intentional grant strategy that has netted the district 19 new grants totally more than $1.3 million (and counting) in funding sources
• Five-member AmeriCorps/City Year teams in all five of the district’s K-8 schools — the first city out of Boston that City Year has partnered with in Massachusetts
These accomplishments are set against a tense backdrop that has seen Everett officials admit to racist and hateful behavior and language, prompting critical and extensive media coverage — and, more recently, the announcement of an official investigation into possible civil rights violations in Everett city government by U.S. Attorney Rachel Rollins. Additionally, authorities continue to investigate the discovery of surveillance equipment in two locations in the Superintendent’s office.
“It has been the most challenging year of my career, but also the most satisfying,” the Superintendent said. “For the latter, I proudly point to our students, who have shown fearlessness and leadership for our entire community. I consider it my responsibility to match their bravery.”
Clearly, that has not gone unnoticed by her fellow superintendents.
“Priya Tahiliani as a leader is resilient, courageous and strong, traits that are now essential strands in the district’s DNA,” Piwowar said. “She expands the capacity of individuals, teams, and projects. She works tirelessly but deliberately. She asks questions, encourages debate, and is unafraid of respectful and professional dissent. There is nothing she cannot handle…She is an example of courageous leadership for equity.”