“We are making headway, but there is still a way to go,” Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani told School Committee members regarding the measures that school officials are taking to stem the recent increase in incidents of fighting at Everett High School.
Tahiliani, speaking at Monday night’s meeting of the School Committee, even went so far to say that school officials could be looking at prosecuting those students responsible for filming and then posting the fights on social media platforms.
Tahiliani, who temporarily has moved her office to the high school to have a more hands-on approach to the problem, outlined some of the measures being taken by school officials, including having a full-time staff to record a students’ attendance during the entire day; having students review the student handbook; filling vacant positions; and stressing the responsibility of students who record and then post videos on social media.
The committee backed the superintendent’s actions, acknowledging that there is a problem at the high school. However, the members agreed that once the misinformation that is circulating on social media is corrected, parents will feel much better about the situation.
“As a parent with a daughter in the Everett Public Schools, I understand the concerns fellow parents have about recent incidents at the high school,” said Mayor DeMaria. “It’s important for families to know that these issues are being taken seriously by the School Department and the School Resource Officers assigned by the Everett Police Department to the high school. Progress has already been made on a series of measures and more work is underway to prevent further incidents,” the Mayor continued. “The School Department has committed to sharing information with parents about the efforts underway to keep our students safe and help address parents’ concerns. I look forward to working with the Superintendent and my colleagues on the School Committee to find additional ways to support the social and emotional learning needs of all our students to help them transition back into the classroom environment and the impacts they have felt from the pandemic.”
Ward 5 member Marcony Almedida Barros told his colleagues that he was at Everett High for more than three hours and saw no major problems at the school. He also mentioned how he communicated with parents in Portuguese, and once the truth about the situation came out, how relieved the parents felt.
“There are rumors that the place is falling apart,” Barros said, adding, “We need to communicate with parents that there are fights, but we are taking action.”
Ward 1 School Committeeman Allen Panarese echoed Barros’s sentiments.
“Five percent of the students’ actions are negative and are overshadowing the 95% of the good accomplishments of the students,” Panarese said.
“My son feels safe at Everett High,” at-large committeewoman Samantha Lambert told her colleagues.
Tahiliani added that the Everett High staff are working with the Everett Police School Resource Officers to address the issue.
Kimberly Auger of the Everett Teachers’ Association (ETA) issued a statement on the matter.
“The ETA membership wants nothing more than to reconnect with and support our students. We welcome and encourage more visits and discussions between teachers and administrators. We know our members already show up every day for our students’ social, academic, and emotional growth. We are all willing to examine and improve our practice within our classrooms and our schools. The staff at each school, nearly all of whom we represent – teachers, administrative assistants, para-professionals, vice-principals, coordinators, directors, department heads – stand ready to continue to help the Superintendent and the building principals create a productive environment for the students and staff at Everett Public Schools.”
During the public comment period, Ben Murray, an Everett teacher, urged all parties, “….not to fingerpoint, but to work on the common goal to educate children.”
Tahiliani added, “We are striving to have one good day after another.”
Tahiliani noted that 20 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the schools for the period of October 1-14. The school population still falls short of the state-mandated 80% threshold of fully-vaccinated students that would permit the schools to have the state’s mandatory mask-wearing order rescinded.
Tahiliani also told members that between Cataldo Ambulance and Cambridge Health, the schools have been able to increase the number of students taking part in the test-and-stay program, whereby students with symptoms are tested, and if found negative for COVID-19, they can stay in school.
This weekend is the homecoming celebration for Everett students and their families.
Starting at 5:30 on Friday, October 22, there will be a parade led by the Everett High Band from the high school on Elm Street to Everett Stadium. The parade route will go from Elm Street to Ferry Street to Chelsea Street and then to the stadium. The football game with Somerville will start at 6 p.m. There will be food trucks and, though the event is primarily geared toward high school students, all are welcome.
On Saturday there will be a fall festival for the entire school district at Everett High. The event will run from 12 to 2 p.m. and both parents and students are invited to attend.