Everett teachers concerned about reopening schools too quickly

EVERETT, Mass. — Teachers in Everett are fired up after seeing a presentation from Superintendent Priya Tahiliani Monday night at the school committee meeting.

“We’re just extremely disappointed that the conversation went away from a safe reopening,” said Kim Auger, president of the Everett Teachers Association.

Tahiliani said she received hundreds of concerns from teachers about reopening schools too quickly, and she broke down those emails by race.

“Of the 225 emails we received, 0.01 percent were from people of color,” said Tahiliani. “That is not reflective of our teacher population which is 12 percent people of color, and it’s not reflective of our student population, which is 82 percent of color.”

Auger says teachers are trying to get back into classrooms safely and hope to be vaccinated before they do so.

“It’s not just about the educators getting vaccinated, we have families at home, but yet our students that are going to be in front of us have families at home too and the vaccination isn’t just to keep the teachers safe, it’s to keep our community safe,” said Auger.

Auger says teachers are advocating for the safety of themselves and their students no matter their race.

But Tahiliani says race matters in this conversation, and she admits it’s uncomfortable for some to hear that.

“There is a difference between advocacy and representation, and I think sometimes that gets lost and as a person of color and as a leader of color, I do think it’s important for us to remember that,” said Tahiliani.

Tahiliani says she understands teachers’ concerns about reopening, but she also feels it’s safe to reopen schools as COVID numbers drop in Everett, and she hopes the reopening plans will consider all voices from this diverse city.

“There’s often a statement made that decisions are made by those who show up to the table and that we need to make sure we’re getting the right people at the table,” said Tahiliani. “But the reality is, is that, there are people missing from that table.”

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