One of the more interesting suggestions by the Blue Ribbon Task Force was to potentially make Mayor Carlo DeMaria – and any other mayor succeeding him – a voting member of the School Committee.
It was a suggestion by the Task Force for the future, but it was a suggestion that Councilors Wayne Matewsky and Steve Simonelli jumped on immediately. On Monday night, both councilors brought the matter before the City Council to try to make the suggestion a reality sooner rather than later.
The mayor is currently an ex officio member of the Committee, meaning he can attend and participate, but cannot vote or make any decisions.
Matewsky said the Task Force report mentioned that more than 20 communities around Everett have their mayor enshrined on the School Committee, and he felt it was a good safeguard.
“The mayor should be a voting member of the School Committee,” said Matewsky. “It doesn’t matter who the mayor is. He or she should be a voting member because you see the debacle we had there. It gives a safeguard. More than 20 other communities do it too.”
The measure was not an official recommendation by the Task Force, but was suggested for a future conversation for the city to consider. Specifically, the Task Force said it should be considered on its face, but particularly if the recommendations aren’t implemented.
Councilors Fred Capone and Peter Napolitano were not in favor of the plan, and voted against considering to implement it now. Both said it wasn’t an official recommendation and that those should be focused on now.
Councilor Michael McLaughlin said he was for the plan, but he felt like it wouldn’t change anything. He said as an ex officio member, he hasn’t seen Mayor DeMaria attend any meetings, so he didn’t feel making him a voting member would change that.
“The mayor is a School Committee member already, and he hasn’t attended any meetings that I can remember,” he said. “I think he should be a voting member, but I don’t know if that will make any difference in attendance.”
All the other members aside from Capone and Napolitano voted to move it forward, and Matewsky said it has been sent to the City Solicitor and City Clerk to draw up paperwork for more official action.
One of the more peculiar parts of the Everett City Charter is in that it requires ward Council and School Committee candidates to get votes citywide. In most other locales, candidates for a district seat are only required to get votes from voters in their district. However, in Everett, a district seat is voted on by the entire city.
That creates the odd situation where a candidate can win their district, but lose the seat on the citywide vote. It has happened several times already, and now Councilor Matewsky is hoping for a charter change to remedy that.
At Monday’s Council meeting, Matewsky called for the Charter Commission to re-assemble and address the citywide voting piece.
“That is very important,” he said. “They did that very specifically back in the day to get at me. Now, we’re trying to correct that. I want to change a few things in the Charter and this is one of them. There is no other city in the state, probably in the country, that requires a ward councillor to run citywide.”
At the moment, he has four other supporters, which is not enough, but he said there is a way to get signatures from the public to start the process. He is exploring that.
•TOO MANY JOBS?
One of the recommendations that Matewsky said he is bothered by is the one that pointed out two-thirds of the School Committee members have family that work for the School Department – potentially creating conflicts of interest. The recommendation called for members to be very careful about avoiding conflicts and for the School Department to watch this situation.
Matewsky said it was one recommendation that really troubled him.
“We’re not running an employment agency,” he said. “Come on. That’s six of nine people with relatives on the payroll.”
However, School Committeeman Frank Parker said members have been very careful about the situation, and fired back at Matewsky in what seems to be an emerging tiff between the two elected officials.
He said the Committee has sponsored a training called Charting the Course at Everett High School on the subject. It’s run by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees and the most recent training came in February.
“I invited the Everett City Council as well and we had Councilors John Hanlon, Rose DiFlorio, and Leo McKinnon come,” he said. “As far as across the board, I had every other councilor but Councilor Wayne Matewsky call me to tell me they couldn’t come. I never heard from Wayne at all.”