EPS Financial Concerns Eased, Not Erased

Significant midyear layoffs are on hold as the Everett Public Schools (EPS) received five of the $6 million the city auditor confirmed is owed to the district, following Monday’s City Council meeting that featured nearly three hours of passionate debate and heartfelt comments from teachers, parents, and students.

When it was over, the Council voted unanimously to release money from the city’s General Stabilization Fund to the EPS. This means the district will not proceed with any of the immediate layoffs that were outlined last week as ongoing efforts are made to erase a large gap in the current school department budget. But staff reductions might be required later in the school year.

According to school officials, an $8.3 million budget gap now stands at $2 million, thanks to the $5 million appropriation and $1.3 in revolving accounts the district can use to offset the shortage.

The EPS was prepared to lay-off 110 employees, including 58 teachers and 18 paraprofessionals, on Friday, Feb. 16. The $5 million appropriation means that no staff reductions will be made this week. If layoffs have to be made later this year, the number would likely be in the range of 55-58 employees and it would include far fewer teachers than in the original 110 figure.

“We needed an allocation of $7 million to completely rule out layoffs this year, so that threat still exists.” said Superintendent of Schools Frederick F. Foresteire. “We are doing everything we can with our unions and our principals to continue to provide all of the services our students deserve. We have some time to see how things unfold. In the immediate term, there will be no interruption or distractions at any of our schools.”

Detailed explanations of the stresses on school finances was prepared by Assistant Superintendents Charles Obremski and Kevin Shaw and Special Education Director Michael Baldassarre, but the Council opted not to listen to them.

Eric Demas, the city’s auditor and chief financial officer, gave a PowerPoint presentation supporting the school department and during which he identified $3,480,000 in unanticipated costs that have strained the EPS budget. That figured includes more than $1.5 million in expenses for 25 new students who require out-of-district special education services.

“In addition, we were expecting $2.5 million in revenue from a Medicaid reimbursement and an allocation that State Senator Sal DiDomenico secured for us,” said Superintendent Foresteire. “The unexpected costs, plus the anticipated revenue we didn’t receive, is why we had to appear before the City Council Monday night.

Before the councilors debated the issue, several teachers, parents, and students made brief but emotional addresses about the EPS. “I love who I am today because of this city,” said Unglid Paul, who moved to Everett from Florida as a youngster and who is one of the shining stars of the Everett High School Class of 2018.

Keverian School drama teacher Brittnay Mitchell brought the audience to its feet when she talked about how the theater transformed her life and how she’s fulfilling a dream by passing out that passion to her students.

With his daughter, Crystal, at his side, parent Dan Skeritt talked about Crystal’s growth from a young student who lagged well behind her peers to an EHS senior taking advanced placement courses.

There was not a seat to be had inside the Council chambers, and an overflow crowd watched the proceedings on television from the George Keverian Room. Hundreds of people who peacefully protested outside City Hall and were unable to gain entrance to Council Chambers.

“It was a powerful display,” said Superintendent Foresteire. “Our parents, students, and educators understand what we have accomplished here in Everett and what it will take to ensure it continues well into the future.”

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