School Committee Keeping Up With Business During Quarantine

The School Committee has been up and running throughout the pandemic, hosting two public meetings online through this month – including a meeting that was to take place on Tuesday night, April 21.

School Committee meetings have been operating under the City’s new online platform and has found that there seem to be many more participants looking in on the meetings than typically attended the in-person meetings. The City’s IT Department reported the April 6 meeting had about 2,000 to 3,000 people involved during the meeting.

Now, the School Committee is taking its cues from the state and trying to get back to business.

Vice Chair Frank Parker said he and those on the Committee have been very pleased with new Supt. Priya Tahiliani’s trial by fire introduction to the district – getting hit with a pandemic nine days into her new job.

“I think overall everyone is pleased with her performance,” he said. “First and foremost the membership is really, really happy with her communications skills and ability to provide updates, using Facebook, Twitter and access to the media. She has been decisive and collaborative at the same time…She’s the new face of the Everett Public Schools.”

One thing the school district has done on the fast track is to get computer devices – in this case ChromeBooks – into the hands of each student in the district over a period of two months. While most of the ChromeBooks have been delivered to students, the final 600 or so will be delivered to homes in about a week or so, it is estimated. That is a drastic jump for the district and a priority that Tahiliani had expressed in her interviews for the job and in her 100-day entry plan.

Prior to the pandemic, students were not allowed to take their school computers home, and not every student had a ChromeBook either. That has virtually changed overnight.

“Having one ChromeBook per student was a goal and she’s achieved that or will in 30 days,” said Parker. “It wasn’t the plan to do it this quickly, but after things settle, I think it will be a great achievement…I like the 1-to-1 ChromeBooks especially over the last six months. Being part of the superintendent search put me in contact with a lot of other communities and I was able to see what they’re doing.”

Parker had put an agenda item on the calendar for the April 21 online meeting that had been a bit controversial earlier in the year. At that time, it was a request to do an audit of the district, but now he’s re-submitted it as a review of the district.

“This will give Priya the ability as a new person to the district to bring other people in and look at our policies and procedures and look at what we have challenges in doing,” he said. “There have been things we’ve been doing here the same way for decades and it’s inefficient.”

That piece was scheduled to be heard at the meeting on April 21, which came beyond Independent deadlines.

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