Chair Cristiano spars with mayor
By Josh Resnek
The mayor went on and on about the great responsibilities that he carried on his shoulders. He talked about trying to get plans together to build a new high school, about needing plans for a new police station, about providing city services, about needing growth to keep the city solvent and that without growth, the city would die.
He provided no plan whatsoever to reduce public school overcrowding.
The mayor’s effort was to make the case that there is so much that needs to be done that overcrowding in the schools is just another issue and one that he is not inclined to consider an emergency and which the taxpayers would likely reject as too expensive.
The mayor requested meetings and dialogue.
“We need to hear more from the community,” he said, as if the community would reject calls for smaller classrooms and better facilities if residents were polled.
He refused to accept responsibility for a key issue impacting public school education in Everett. He continued insisting that affordable housing is more important than reducing overcrowding in the public schools.
School Committee Chair Jeannie Cristiano implied the mayor really didn’t understand the issue – and that the issue was needing more classrooms and needing them now…needing them yesterday, as she said.
“Plans are great. We need action now,” Cristiano answered the mayor.
The crowd in the room cheered her comments. The mayor had earlier rejected and dismissed the importance of those cheering against him and for Cristiano.
“We need to really respond now. I get what you’re saying,” Cristiano said to the mayor about his equivocation about providing an answer to an ongoing emergency.
“We need to do something now. Not tomorrow. It’s great we’re having meetings… but we need to get down to basics…we need to get this done,” she implored.
The crowd cheered her words, further causing the mayor to turn red and to contort his mouth as he sought answers that would please everyone – but to no avail.
The mayor again took umbrage to what Cristiano said. He then said something to her that was inaudible to the crowd but not to Cristiano.
This came a moment after the mayor described hallways inside schools as spacious and as a “decent environment.” He also challenged Cristiano about kids needing specialized aid being counseled in hallways, insisting that hallways are good spaces for learning.
“I was a needs student with math when I was in the 9th grade,” the mayor said.
“No wonder you don’t understand the problem,” Cristiano said to the mayor.
The mayor complained bitterly.
“You should be ashamed of yourself. I’m done. You just made a derogatory comment after I admitted I was a needs student in math.”
Cristiano responded angrily that kids with special needs pulled out of classes and taken care of in hallways have low self esteem to begin with. They need to be made important. They shouldn’t be singled out, she told the mayor, and certainly not in a hallway. Cristiano later revealed she had taken a tour of Pope John Friday.
“It’s looking fabulous,” she told the mayor.
The mayor made an effort to assuage Cristiano, and to take the rough edge off his comments made to her by detailing their long friendship.
The mayor mentioned Cristiano is a gun owner with a wan smile and red face – and that he didn’t want to tangle with her.
He laughed. No one laughed with him – least of all Cristiano.