After much debate, the Everett School Committee on Thursday night voted to keep newly-appointed Superintendent of Schools William Hart on the job while continuing to have Superintendent Priya Tahiliani remain on paid administrative leave. Tahiliani was placed on paid administrative leave by the previous school committee that voted on the matter at its October 30 meeting after several allegations against Tahiliani surfaced.
Thursday night saw members of the audience and School Committee speaking on both sides of the issue.
For the first 45 minutes of the meeting, committee members heard different points-of-view from members of the public, with some advocating reinstating Tahiliani and others attesting to the positive start and outreach that have marked Hart’s tenure since being appointed to the superintendent’s post in December. After listening to the differing, though not necessarily contradictory, views of the public, the School Committee members weighed in on the issue.
“We are in a tough spot,” said School Committeeperson Margaret Cornelio, adding, “There is no way to make it 100% right.”
School Committee member Joanna Garren said she favored restoring Tahiliani to her position as superintendent.
School Committee member Robin Babcock pointed out, “We inherited this situation and we owe it to the community to review it.” Babcock added that she had concerns over the process. She noted that several members of the former school board did not have an opportunity to properly review the allegations against Tahiiani before they voted to place her on paid administrative leave.
“I don’t want to add to the chaos — we must move forward,” said committee member Samantha Hurley.
School Committee member Samantha Lambert noted that a decision on the charges is expected soon and that by bringing Tahiliani back, “It could allow for closure.”
Robert Galvin, the attorney for the Everett public schools, then presented his opinion. “The investigation must continue and Ms. Tahiliani is abiding by the rules of paid leave,” Galvin said. However, he cautioned the committee members, there might be a risk that bringing back Tahiliani could impede the investigation. He noted that the investigator knows no one involved in the case and is highly-experienced in his field. He also noted that no School Committee member should comment on the ongoing investigation.
After some more discussion (with some committee members pointing out that Tahiliani’s contract expires in five weeks on February 29 and that the taxpayers of Everett will be paying two superintendent salaries until that time), the members took a vote on whether to reinstate Tahiliani or have her remain on paid administrative leave. (A “yes” vote would reinstate Tahiliani, while a “no” vote would have her remain on paid leave.)
Voting in the affirmative were Lambert, Babcock, and Garren. Voting “no” were chairperson Jeanne Christiano, Mayor Carlo DeMaria, Cornelio, Joseph D’Onofrio, and Hurley. The motion thus failed to pass.
The committee then took a second vote on whether to reconsider the motion (with a “yes” vote) or not to reconsider the motion (with a “no” vote). Voting “yes” were Lambert and Garren. Voting “no” were Cristiano, DeMaria, Cornelio, D’Onofrio, and Hurley. (Babcock voted to abstain). With the motion to reconsider having failed, the committee effectively ended further discussion on the matter.