“The institutional racism championed by Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria and his now-reformed School Board cronies is palpable,” Tahiliani wrote in the complaint.
Tahiliani is the first person of color to lead Everett Schools. Her lawsuit accuses DeMaria of campaigning last year on a “get me out” program while broadcasting her intentions to appoint two white men to replace her and her deputy superintendent, an Asian American woman.
Deanna Deveney, the city’s director of communications, said DeMaria would not comment on the complaint “to ensure confidentiality on behalf of all parties involved, particularly the complainant.”
Unanimously nominated by the school board, Tahiliani received a contract that runs until 2024. Shortly after taking the job, she began hiring a more diverse staff to better reflect the city’s demographics, such as recommends the Ministry of Education and Secondary Education, the complaint states. Approximately 83% of Everett’s students are people of color, and the administrative staff was previously 100% white.
People of color now make up 20% of its leadership team, and the schools employ a family engagement officer, equity officer and family liaison group, Tahiliani’s complaint notes.
“As a result, Mayor DeMaria began openly accusing me of being racist toward members of the school board and school community, stating that I only hire people of color and that I hate white people,” reads his complaint.
MCAD has not confirmed the filing, which Tahiliani’s attorney provided to The Globe.
“MCAD cannot comment on any investigation that may be pending before the commission,” spokesman H Harrison said.
Tahiliani did not respond to requests for comment but her lawyer, Benjamin Flam, said he was surprised at the way she was treated.
“As an employment law attorney, you think you’ve seen it all,” Flam said.
Flam said his treatment stood in stark comparison to that of his predecessor, a white man.
Frederick Foresteire, who served as superintendent for 29 years, survived two ethics commission violations and a criminal indictment for accepting school air conditioners in his home. In 2019, the school board placed him on administrative leave after several staff members raised allegations of sexual harassment. He now faces felony assault charges. Foresteire could not be reached for comment.
DeMaria did not seek to undermine Foresteire or interfere with the school board as he did during Tahiliani’s tenure, according to the complaint.
“Priya just wants to do the job she was appointed to do,” Flam said. “She filed this lawsuit to prevent further deterioration of this work and the seemingly inevitable unlawful termination of her role that is to come.”
During Tahiliani’s tenure, DeMaria had pushed for a city charter change so that his honorary position on the school board carried a vote. School board attorney Robert W. Galvin asked the attorney general’s office to investigate the charter change, pointing out two ways it seemed inconsistent with state law. An email from Galvin attached to the MCAD complaint says the city council was required to hold a public hearing on the charter change before voting on it. And, Galvin noted in his email, the inclusion of the mayor created a 10-member committee, creating the possibility of a tie vote.
In an interview Wednesday, Galvin reiterated his opposition to the change, noting that the 10-member committee is already deadlocked on at least two measures.
“I’m troubled by all of this, frankly,” Galvin said. “I mean, we have rules. And you are supposed to follow these rules so that the public can comment on the question and the school committee can comment on the question. And the case has just passed. And then he went to the governor’s office. No one paid much attention to it.
The school committee’s conflicts were exposed at a meeting on Tuesday evening, although DeMaria was not present. A newly elected member, former councilman Michael McLaughlin, had proposed seven agenda items that would have checked the authority of the superintendent or curbed school spending. They included an audit; a hiring freeze on all non-classroom positions; a freeze on increases; and a ban on extending contracts without school board approval. He also proposed removing the superintendent as “secretary” of the school committee, a non-voting position, and proposed that she not regularly attend future committee meetings, which he said could ” help relieve some of that stress and pressure” of leading the schools. by a pandemic.
In response, Tahiliani made it clear that she had not asked for a change and would prefer to continue the “longstanding tradition” of serving on the school committee.
“I never ask for less work,” she says. “If you give me more work, I will do more.”
McLaughlin withdrew numerous measures, most of which were sent to a committee for review. Marcony Almeida-Barros, a member of the school committee, said at least one of his demands was “completely beyond the reach of committee members.”
Performance at school committee meetings was a point of contention in the review of Tahiliani’s jobs, with DeMaria raising concerns that “her posture, facial expressions and other physical mannerisms are visibly changing over time. course of discussions and debates on the problems”.
She compared it to criticism DeMaria has leveled at former councilman Gerly Adrien, the first black woman elected to the council.
“This is not an isolated incident. During City Council meetings, Mayor DeMaria has made comments about Councilor Adrien’s facial expressions, stating that he would like to turn off his video and/or mute it,” a she wrote in the complaint, “Mayor DeMaria also accused her of yelling or pointing, but a review of the video of that meeting proved her accusations to be false.”
Adrien, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor and no longer sits on city council, was among those who came to Tahiliani’s defense on Tuesday night.
“To see the actions that the school committee wants to put forward tonight, it’s sad,” says Adrien. “It’s frustrating and it’s disappointing.”
DeMaria, who has served as mayor since 2007, was also recently accused of demanding nearly $100,000 from the city clerk, a claim the FBI had begun investigating. He strongly denied the charges, saying he owed money in connection with a real estate transaction, and he sued the Clerk and the Everett Leader Herald for defamation.
When he was narrowly reelected in November, DeMaria used his victory speech to issue a warning to people “who tried to sandbag us.”
“Let me tell you – I’ve raised a lot of money and I’m going to take on a lot of people,” DeMaria said.