Council in favor of Pope John as a public school
Smith, Marchese, Lattanzi lead the fight
By Josh Resnek
A stunning thing happened at the Everett City Council meeting Monday night.
The council showed independence and resolve with a strong vote of confidence given to the conversion of the vacant Pope John High School facility into a 7th and 8th grade home in order to begin fixing a serious overcrowding situation that exists in nearly all the public schools.
Councilors expressed their sentiments unequivocally, and those sentiments are that Pope John remains, that the facility will be used to mitigate overcrowding, that it will not become another housing development as desired by the mayor.
For Mayor Carlo DeMaria, this was a jaw dropping wake up call.
When Councilor Al Lattanzi, admittedly one of the mayor’s chief supporters and backers, stated his intention to support using Pope John as a school again, it represented a historic moment of sorts in the current history of city politics.
I support this,” he told his colleagues.
For Lattanzi, it was a remarkable moment where he made the decision to act on his own without guidance from his friend the mayor to support the needs of the city’s public school children.
His favorable remarks about using Pope John as a public school resonated with his colleagues and with those listening in the council chamber.
Lattanzi was followed by Councilor Stephanie Smith’s emphatic public demand urging her colleagues that enough is enough.
“It is time to act. That time is now. Let’s do it,” she demanded of her colleagues. Smith was ferocious and adamant that enough time had been wasted.
“I’m not waiting any longer. I don’t want to wait. I don’t want to wait another week. Let’s review the School Committee’s numbers (if the mayor doesn’t yet have his).
The mayor’s chief of staff Erin Deveney, seated next to Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani before the council, listened in silence as Tahiliani again detailed why and how Pope John should be used before the mayor’s affordable housing plan for Pope John collapsed before her.
Smith asked Deveney if the mayor yet had his figures together, she said “nothing yet” and that maybe they would be ready this week, maybe not.
That was not good enough for Smith.
She was piqued the wrong way by Deveney’s answer.
“Let’s get this done. Let’s do it. We need to get moving on this,” she said as though it was an order and not a thought. Smith received a rousing ovation from the crowd inside the council chamber when she finished her remarks.
She called for a joint convention of the School Committee and the City Council to tour the facility by next week whether the mayor is ready or not.
The council unanimously passed such a motion asking for the joint committee meeting to take place next Tuesday, one hour before the School Committee meeting.
Councilor Mike Marchese again gave powerful remarks supporting the use of Pope John.
“This is a no brainer. I don’t even understand why there is an issue about this…When you think about how easy this is it’s crazy to think about wasting so much time talking about it… Pope John is a no brainer. I’m 100% for the school to be used to relieve overcrowding,” he demanded.
Like Smith, he was met with an ovation from the council chamber crowd.
Councilor Darren Costa said it was time “to get going sooner rather than later.”
Councilor Richard Dell Isola, another close friend and supporter of the mayor asked questions about what is necessary to make the facility right.
“I’m with this but we need to know what must be done,” he said.
Under questioning earlier, Tahiliani revealed libraries in all the public schools except the Madeline English school, had been dismantled and turned into classrooms.
This revelation sent a shock wave through the chamber.
Tahiliani and Costa exchanged thoughts about security if modular classrooms were used.
“That’s a security risk I don’t want my child to be a part of,” Costa said. “It is not a safe option. It causes me concern,” he added.