By Josh Resnek
The School Department meeting with the City Council last week featured a huge crowd of concerned teachers, the entire School Committee and Superintendent of Schools Fred Foresteire with his entire team, discussing the new budget.
Foresteire told the council that even with an additional $6 million or so provided by the city to the schools, the budget will be about $5 million short.
Several councilors, led by Councilor Mike Marchese wondered aloud how to cut school spending.
Marchese toyed with the idea of cutting the day care and early morning child care, from the all day schooling which Everett’s youngest students are provided.
Foresteire was roiled at the suggestion.
“Cut that and you cut the heart out of everything we do,” he seemed to say in so many words.
All day schooling and attention paid to our youngest students allows working-class parents to work days jobs.
Without care for their children – those people cannot work.
Marchese suggested that the youngest should be cared for for 3 hours and not all day.
Foresteire replied: “As soon as they drop off their children and fight their way through the traffic to their jobs they’ll have to return to pick up their kids. That won’t work,” Foresteire said.
These exchanges defined the meeting, which produced nothing substantive other than to leave the large crowd wondering what it was all about.
The council has time and again voted to give the School Department whatever it needs to carry on its programs and to meet its responsibilities.
Foresteire pointed out that their appropriations are not for raises or necessary jobs – and that the money is not given away or used in other enterprises.
He said 100 jobs will be lost if the present budget is not redesigned to take the teachers into consideration.
He talked also about the growth of the school population, an unprecedented growth that shows Everett with more public school children than nearly every school department in the Everett, Malden, Melrose, Medford nexus.
The growth reveals the desire by working-class parents coming to Everett to take advantage of the public schools.
“If you want to walk around your city without fear, then we need to educate our kids and to provide them a safe harbor. This is what the public schools do,” Foresteire implied in so many words.
What he did not say is that most of the council is of the opinion that somehow the School Department budget should be cut.
There is the belief held among the councilors that the School Department budget can be handled in the same way the snow removal budget is handled.
If there’s a lot of snow, more money needs to be appropriated to meet the challenge. If there is very little snow, the city holds its money.
The School Department does not work this way, Foresteire said time and again.
“We need every dime we get,” he told the Leader Herald after the meeting.
There was also a brief debate between the mayor and Foresteire about the number of new units being built in the city. This debate was veiled reference to the belief held by most of the council that Everett has too many students.
They believe the city would be better off with no new families coming here. Families come with children and children need to be educated.
Cutting new construction will not do anything to stop the growth in the Everett public schools, said Foresteire.
“Can you imagine a city with no families and no children so the public schools can be empty rather than full?” Foresteire asked the Leader Herald.
“If the city’s schools are empty of children, we will save a lot of money but then, what a place this city would be,” Foresteire told the Leader Herald.
“We’re going to need at least $5 million more than we are being given. This is the reality. Everything else suggested is unreality,” he said.