The failure of the School Committee to extend the contract for School Superintendent Priya Tahiliani flies in the face of common sense.
By any standard of relevant measure, Tahiliani has performed well enough to receive an extension.
Two months ago, as noted by former Chair of the School Committee Jean Cristiano, Tahiliani had received good grades on her reviews by the School Committee.
Monday night, it was as though the world had been turned upside down for the young and assertive school superintendent who has somehow managed to survive the nominal, perpetual state of political war being waged here for about 3 years.
“Can you imagine getting good reviews from the membership two months ago and the same people taking your job from you two months later?” Cristiano said during the meeting.
“What is one to think of that?” she wondered.
Cristiano’s reasoning is that of a fair minded, independent voice.
She came into office opposed to Tahiliani.
Over time she became impressed with Tahiliani.
She came to admire her.
Tahiliani came to admire Cristiano. Cristiano asked her colleagues Monday night to vote for Tahiliani.
In this respect, she shares a camaraderie with School Committee Chair Mike Mangan who had the same type of personal turnaround or conversion, if you will, regarding Tahiliani.
Due to other circumstances, mainly political, Tahiliani was denied the extension.
The vote Monday night had nothing to do with her ability, her work ethic, her honesty or her success as the leader of the Everett Public Schools.
The vote against her was not a crime, although many might tend to think of it this way if they are Black, Brown or Hispanic.
It was simply a vote of the school committee acting with the imperative and sense of justice as evinced by the school committee for many years.
Tahiliani did not have the votes.
She never had a chance Monday night in Everett.
The honor roll
For about an hour and a half, public speakers dominated the school committee meeting.
This is a tribute to the changing tide in this city. Never before have so many been willing to say so much in public about issues like extending the superintendent’s contract.
Some speakers were eloquent.
Some speakers were parents and teachers. Some speakers were Black Brown, Hispanic and white.
About this group – we do not believe any of them were coerced into supporting the superintendent.
They came of their own free will to have their say.
Their names are noted here:
Damien Allen, Wendy Poste, David Fortin, Maria Bussle, Peggy Serino, Shane McNally, Reverend Milan Desrosiers, Fred Capone, Nancy Sachetta, Mary Fortin, Vincent Dixon, Benjamin Murray, Damien Allan’s daughter, Janice Lark, Sandy Juliano, Robin Babcock, Amelia Babcock, Steve Ianocco, Paul Sterite, Jon Puopolo, Bill Thompson, Kissano Essabia, Juan Solaramos, Abbe Endome, and a married couple from the Art Lab of Everett.
En masse their words and phrases raised the bar of discussion in this city so dominated by politics and conflicting personalities.
The comments made by Shane McNally, a teacher and the father of three and longtime resident, epitomized the thinking of many who came to express themselves.
“It is a return to the past with a no vote…please think of the people who are struggling with untapped potential..race equity aren’t taboos any longer. Hiring leaders of color is a good thing,” McNally said.
And there was sometime eloquence.
Allen was the first to speak.
He gave his enthusiastic support of Tahiliani. He said he had reviewed her record and that it represented a comprehensive study about leadership and what it is. He said she was process driven, collaborative and that she was about competence and leadership.
Allen spoke with an extraordinary eloquence in perfect English, slowly and concisely.
“When you have a superstar doing good work for your children, you reward her,” he said.
“Don’t overthink simple things. This decision is remarkably easy.”
Many speakers urged the school committee toe their conscience, to put the children first, to think carefully about their vote, and to vote on the merits.
In the end, 6 votes against the superintendent could not, would not be changed.
According to school teacher and parent Shane McNally, the school committee had two choices.
“Racism or anti-racism.”
Fred Capone delivered sage remarks. The former councilor and mayoral candidate spoke briefly.
“Every experience I’ve had with the superintendent has been positive. This should be one of the easiest decisions,” he added.
“Stop acting like children. Advocate for the children,” Capone told the school committee before the vote.
We are not certain how or why those school committee members against Tahiliani made their decision.
We are only certain that Tahiliani lost.
That’s politics for you in modern Everett.