Councilors Spar over the Role of Council in the Public Schools

City Councilors were a bit at odds on Monday night over a request for information on remote learning by Councilor Gerly Adrien, with some saying the information had already been shared when Adrien wasn’t in attendance and others saying the School Committee needed to remain separate from the Council.

In a narrow 5-4 vote, the matter passed and the Schools will be requested to come before the Council at a future meeting to talk about remote learning.

Adrien introduced a piece Monday night that called on the Everett Public Schools and the School Committee to share information on how remote learning is going. That included the total enrollment in EPS, how many students had received a ChromeBook, how many students had been set up on a virtual learning plan, how many had logged in inconsistently and how many students were considered “virtual dropouts.”

She also wanted to see if there was anything that City government could do to help the remote learning process.

It mimicked orders approved by the Boston City Council, and Adrien said she just wanted an update whereas they get weekly data on attendance and participation.

Councilor Anthony DiPierro said he wasn’t against the measure, but he said much of the information asked for has been shared repeatedly on the Council’s weekly Wednesday phone calls with the administration and School Department. He said Adrien doesn’t attend those phone meetings, and if she did, she might know the information already. He said he actually had already passed a similar resolution at the previous meeting.

“Many of her other questions have been addressed week after week since the beginning of the pandemic during the administration’s weekly Zoom meetings,” he said. “She has repeatedly chosen not to attend. It’s impossible to be a voice for the voiceless if you are uninformed. I understand she has continuing education classes, but I graduated from Suffolk University while I was in office and employed. It was difficult to do it all at the same time, but it was a decision I made and I never swayed in my commitment to the people of Everett. The people deserve our attention and it’s imperative we stay informed. 

“The School Committee has a job to do as does the City Council,” he continued. “They have a public participation portion just as the Council does. That is the appropriate place to voice her concerns.”

Other councilors like Peter Napolitano said it’s important to keep tabs on the School Department, but he said it’s also important to remember they are an independent body. They do not serve the Council, he said, as the City departments do.

“The School Committee is not subservient to the City Council,” he said. “They are our peers…It’s not our job to report that information.”

An impassioned Councilor Adrien said her order was being mischaracterized and the information is not available. She said a teacher at graduation told her that 14 out of 50 students were participating in one class. Adrien said those numbers aren’t available, and the Council needs them.

“Fourteen out of 50,” she said. “That is one teacher. If we have 500 teachers in the schools and that many students are not participating in education, that’s troubling. Do you know how many students are being left out of education in our city? That is a shameful thing.”

Adrien also responded to the criticism of her not attending the Wednesday updates, saying she is in graduate school at Boston University. That, she said, takes all of her time on Mondays and Wednesdays. She said her education remains a priority.

In the meantime, the measure did pass 5-4, but there were some technical difficulties. Councilor Michael McLaughlin said he would have voted against the measure, but his computer froze up and he was unable to log his vote. That left things open for passage.

Those voting for the measure were Adrien, Fred Capone, Jimmy Tri Le, Mike Marchese, and Stephanie Martins. Those voting against were DiPierro, Wayne Matewsky, Peter Napolitano and Council President Rosa DiFlorio.

School Committeeman Frank Parker said it was a shame that the measure passed, and he believed it was an unwarranted shot at new Supt. Priya Tahiliani.

“On Saturday at the graduation, the members of the City Council all stood in unity with Supt. Tahiliani telling her what a great job she’s doing – taking pictures with her and asking her if they could do anything,” he said. “On Monday night, most of those same councilors had a chance to stand up for her and they didn’t. It’s incredibly disappointing.”

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