EPS superintendent, chairman stand up to City Hall meddling

By JOSH RESNEK

There was an extraordinary exchange at the School Committee meeting Monday night between the Chair of the SC Thomas Abruzzese, Superintendent Priya Tahiliani, and the mayor.

The mayor was attempting to do his two-step dance which has people repeating themselves a second and third time after already explaining themselves about the money he removed from the schools and is now making the schools beg for as though he might not return it.

The mayor’s effort was entirely to put off returning the funding to the schools as required.

“This is taxpayer money. We must be very careful about itemizing what is being spent,” he said to Tahiliani.

“We already itemized what we are spending. We have talked about this for months,” she replied, exasperated at the bumbling, unprofessional conduct of the mayor.

When does this posturing end, she seemed to ask the mayor?

The mayor pleaded for the city’s CFO Eric Demas to be allowed to explain the matter.

Tahiliani resisted speaking at length about the issue again.

She had no use, as did Abruzzese, with listening to the city’s CFO Eric Demas, who was set to explain why the city is playing with the School Department about the $471,000 the mayor took from its funding.

The mayor pleaded again and again for Demas to be allowed to speak.

“What for?” Abruzzese asked.

“You said everything was fine a few days ago. Now you are telling us this needs to be discussed again,” he added.

For that matter, Abruzzese and Tahiliani both questioned rightly and critically the mayor’s want of pushing off the city’s reimbursement for reasons that make no legal or ethical sense.

The mayor insisted that Demas needed to speak.

“He makes all the money decisions. I defer to him,” the mayor said.

“Are you the mayor or not?” asked Abruzzese.

“You defer to Demas? Will you defer to the superintendent?” he asked.

“Of course,” the mayor reluctantly added.

“We’ve talked about this for months. Why do we have to talk about it again?” Tahiliani asked the mayor.

More mumbling, gesticulations with his hands, and visible frustration rocked the hapless mayor. Tahiliani wouldn’t back down.

Neither would he.

One appeared much smarter and on top of things in an honest way than the other – and it wasn’t the rambling, disingenuous mayor.

The School Committee refused to let Demas speak.

This caused the mayor to struggle with his thoughts out loud, as Demas usually does his dirty work by confusing everyone with financial mumbo jumbo.

The mayor was almost inaudible, mixing up his words and thoughts, talking with his hands, his face hidden behind his mask, flailing about to find a reason, to make up a reason he should not hand over the money to the School Department, especially since it was already spent.

The mayor tried insisting that the City Council, which he controls, needed further information on the reimbursement before he could act as if to say, “My hands are tied. This is up to the City Council and they need to have everything itemized before I put this before them.”

Abruzzese and Tahiliani, each in their own inimitable way, dismissed that as ridiculous.

It was painfully obvious that Tahiliani and Abruzzese were speaking for the kids.

The mayor was speaking for himself and his skewered sense of right and wrong when it comes to giving back what was not his to take away.

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