Superintendent Priya Tahiliani’s leadership of the School Department does not include the mayor’s imprimatur and his voice, as the mayor sees it.
As a result, the mayor is apparently putting together a slate of candidates who will run for the School Committee in November with the hope of ridding himself of the superintendent’s audacity, according to a variety of people inside and outside of the School Department and the School Committee.
The plan is to pack the School Committee in the November Election, to be followed by a vote to force the superintendent out of her position.
All the present members of the School Committee are apparently aware of the mayor’s effort now underway to pack the School Committee with political allies, instead of independent education-minded voices, according to a wide variety of sources familiar with the effort.
“The public will make its own decisions (about packing the School Committee). The mayor hasn’t had a good track record of getting others elected. As for the superintendent, I voted for her. She was my pick. I’m going to make sure she succeeds,” said School Committeeman Frank Parker.
The mayor repeatedly asked Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani if she was going to be needing an extra $1 million over the School Department budget allotment at Monday night’s School Committee meeting.
“We are asking for what the schools are owed,” she shot back to the mayor.
What she said, in other words, is that the School Department is looking for the money “stolen” from its account by the mayor – which he has told her he would give back.
“Do you know what you need above budget?” the mayor asked Tahiliani again and again.
Again, and again, she rebuffed the mayor in an attempt to set him straight about who owes the School Department what.
“We are asking for reimbursements for planned spending. We are not overspending our budget,” she added.
Since the mayor removed $471,000 from the School Department budget without informing her, the School Department has been trying to have the money refunded, along with $581,000 for rent for the Devens School the mayor is withholding.
“I think you’re confused,” the mayor said to Tahiliani.
Unperturbed, she shot back, “I think you are confused.”
The battle is now intensifying between the mayor and the School Department over more than $1.5 million in funding that the School Department (SD) claims is theirs, and he claims it is his. The mayor and his CFO
Eric Demas, the chief supporter of the mayor and architect of Everett’s financial domain, did a simple transfer of money from one account to another, removing the money in question from SD accounts and placing it in the city’s account.
The only problem with the transfer of more than $1.5 million from School Department accounts to the city’s account, is that the SD had already spent more than $500,000 of the funding the mayor took away from the SD for mandatory spending, causing the SD to stumble just a bit when it appropriated money for expenses that were no longer there and had to use other money to meet its financial obligations.
It was almost a bit like the SD believing the money was there, writing checks to pay for services, and the checks later bouncing because the funds had been taken by the mayor.
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.