School Committee Takes up a Number of Issues

The Everett School Committee discussed a number of controversial items at its January 18 meeting amid the backdrop of the gender and racial discrimination action filed by School Superintendent Priya Tahiliani the day before with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discriminatioin (MCAD).

The controversial items on the agenda, which was posted on January 13 by the Everett City Clerk four days prior to the filing by  Tahiliani of her action with the MCAD on January 17, were submitted by newly-elected members of the School Committee and had some returning members asking whether the items went beyond the purview of the School Committee’s oversight.

Those agenda items, and their sponsors, were as follows:

5. Place an immediate hiring freeze on all Everett Public School (EPS) positions that are not classroom related for a period of 90 days (Michael McLaughlin)

6. Place an immediate freeze on salary increases for all non-union/non-contractual positions for a period of 90 days (Michael McLaughlin)

7. That all upper management positions, from Assistant Principals and higher, provide a copy of their active certification for the job they are performing in time for the School Committee meeting scheduled for Monday, February 28, 2022; and that the Superintendent of Schools provide the School Committee with a full and detailed report of all active certifications, as well as those who are not certified, in time for the School Committee meeting scheduled for Monday, February 28, 2022 (Michael McLaughlin)

8. That the Superintendent of Schools does not approve any contract extension for any non-union/non-contractual employee without first seeking prior approval from the School Committee (Michael McLaughlin)

9. Request to utilize uncommitted funds for the purpose of conducting an external operational audit of the Everett Public Schools. The objective of this operational audit is to review the efficiency of all departments and operations within the EPS and to present a final report on the findings, recommendations, and projected costs or cost savings associated with the recommendations to the Everett School Committee. (Jeanne Cristiano and Michael McLaughlin)

11. To amend the Rules of the Everett School Committee to wit: Chapter 1- Organization, Section 3. Subcommittees by deleting the existing-standing Subcommittees and inserting in its place Finance Committee, Contract and Negotiations Committee, Student Opportunity Committee, Personnel & Property Committee, Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Committee, CTE-Vocational Education Committee, Rules, Policy and Procedure Committee, Cafeteria Committee, Committee of the Whole, Budget Committee. {Chair Jeanne Cristiano)

12. To amend the Rules of the Everett School Committee to wit: Chapter 1- Organization, Section 3. Subcommittees by striking out in the second paragraph the following language “except for the Subcommittee on Contract Negotiations and Finance.” This term shall be for a period of two years. (Chair Jeanne Cristiano)

13. To amend School Committee Rules Chapter 7, Section 7, Organization, by deleting the last sentence, “The School Committee shall annually, by ballot, elect the Superintendent of Schools as Secretary. (City Charter,CH. 355, Acts of 7892, Section 46),” and replace it with, “The School Committee shall annually, by ballot, elect a secretary,” in order to give the Superintendent of Schools the ability to focus on managing the school system in accordance with MGL Chapter 77. (Michael McLaughlin)

14. To amend School Committee Rules Chapter Ill Rules of Order Section l Order of Proceedings by requiring the Superintendent to provide monthly updates to the School Committee. (Michael McLaughlin)

After much discussion on all of the items, and an especially-lengthy discussion on Item 5 (the proposed hiring freeze), Item 5 was referred to the Finance Subcommittee for further review, with an amendment not to affect positions already posted on the TelEd website. Item 6 was approved and item 7 was moved to be discussed in an executive session on Feb. 28.  Items 8 and 14 were referred back to the sponsor. 

However, all members stressed that their goals were to provide a superior education to all public school students and honor their fiscal obligation to the taxpayers of Everett. 

It was with the latter goal in mind that Cristiano said she put forth Item 9 calling for an operational audit. Speaking on this item, Cristiano noted that since this is a new school committee, “Always ask for an audit when we start.  The objective is to improve education for all students with the goal to see and understand where we are.”  This item was referred to the Finance Subcommittee.

Items 11, 12 and 13 were referred to the Rules, Policy and Procedure Subcommittee to be discussed further.

COVID Update

The first half of January was a trying month for Everett students and staff in their ongoing battle with COVID-19.  There has been a huge spike in teachers, staff, and students who have reported positive test results.  There were 473 positive test results through the first half of the month, as compared to 146 for the entire month of December and just 58 for the entire month of November.

According to Supt. Tahiliani, the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokespersons said that Everett was on par with the rest of the state during the first half of January.  Tahiliani also reported that there will be take-home test kits for the February and April breaks and that more than 58,000 masks have been distributed.  The mask mandate has been extended until February 28.

Cleaning Company Hired

Tahiliani reported that three bids had been received for the additional daily cleanup for Everett High School. The low bidder was MP Services, who previously had cleaned the schools prior to the pandemic and who will start on February 1. The hiring of the cleaning company will cost $27,000 per month, but will free up custodial staff from the high school to allow other schools to receive additional cleaning.

The poor conditions at the high school were a major cause of concern during the late fall as students, staff, and parents had complained about the lack of cleanliness in the school’s classrooms, bathrooms, and hallways.

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