“I’m not going to renovate Pope John”

Mayor changes his mind opts out of Pope John

By Josh Resnek

Mayor Carlo DeMaria rejected the need for Pope John to be rehabbed into classroom space Monday night in a surprise announcement to the city council.

He told the city council unequivocally, he will not allow the Pope John rehab to be done.

He reversed his public promise to abide by the wishes of the city council to rehab the former Pope John High School to relieve overcrowding in the public schools.

The mayor revealed no work is being done on an RFP for Pope John.

He rejected the widely held belief that overcrowding relief was needed post haste. He reinforced that mindset by reminding the city council that overcrowding is a problem everywhere in Gateway City public schools. He said class sizes were larger when he went to public school in Everett more than 35 years ago.

Everett’s public schools are 84% Black, Brown and Hispanic in a city where the lack of racial equity is now being investigated by the US Attorney’s office and the Department of Justice.

“We need something right now,” Councilor Stephanie Smith told the mayor during a strained exchange.

“Another school is a necessity,” she repeated to the mayor.

Mayor shown informing council that the Pope John project to alleviate school overcrowding is dead in the water. Superintendent Priya Tahiliani is shown seated next to him. She challenged the mayor’s decision. (Photo by Josh Resnek)

“We have to do something right now,” she said.

The mayor remained adamant.

He stood firm by his change of mind.

The mayor went back to his modular plea. He said modulars are like buildings.

“If we build modulars, school kids will have new desks by September.”

The mayor said he continues to support construction of a new high school.

In short remarks he read to the council, he said he supports modular solutions.

Modulars had been rejected by the city council and the school committee previously.

He said he is sticking with his plan for his next three years in office, the mayor told the council Monday night.

“I’m not going to renovate Pope John and spend $70-$80 million dollars,” he said.

“I’m sending back to you (the city council) a proposal for modular spaces.”

The mayor insisted on mov- ing forward with his plan to build a new high school with a vocational program – a plan he is shepherding destined to take as long as a decade and will cost an estimated $500 million.

The mayor’s change of direction on Pope John did not produce a visible ounce of public anger from the city council.

Councilor Mike Marchese told the mayor Pope John is the answer right now.

The mayor repeated that the need is to add classrooms where they are necessary now by using modular classrooms.

“Stop playing the political game, Mike,” the mayor protested.

“Modulars can be ready to add classroom spaces that need immediate attention by September,” the mayor said.

“We won’t be renovating Pope John.”

According to Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani five schools would need modular classrooms.

Tahiliani confronted the mayor.

“We are ignored and dismissed. The mayor said he would do what we wanted him to do. He has contradicted that statement. You’ve been ignored and dismissed,” she told the council while seated next to the mayor.

“All of us are ignored and dismissed. The mayor said it is his decision. It is his way or the highway. This city is under investigation for civil rights violations. My comments will not be heard and I am on topic,” said the superintendent.

The meeting at that point devolved into a chaotic exchange between the mayor and Tahiliani.

They both continued speaking until what they were saying was largely inaudible.

The mayor claimed Tahiliani was speaking without keeping to the agenda item about Pope John. He asked that she be told to keep to the subject being discussed and or to be quiet.

When she mentioned the Federal civil rights investigation, the mayor bristled.

He shouted over her words that he would be totally vindicated when the investigation is finished.

The mayor asked to be excused. He got up and left the chamber.

Tahiliani did the same.

The council went on discussing agenda items as though nothing had happened.

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