Soon-to-be-former Everett School Superintendent Priya Tahiliani and Deputy Superintendent Kim Tsai today sued Mayor Carlo DeMaria and the School Committee for job discrimination, alleging that a school-committee vote earlier this month to not renew their contracts was the culmination of an effort by DeMaria and his cronies to oust the first two non-White school leaders in the city's history.
In their complaint, filed in Boston federal court, the two allege that after Tahilani filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination in February, 2022, "DeMaria caused secret surveillance cameras to be installed in Tahiliani’s office ceiling" and that the FBI removed the devices "and is currently investigating that unlawful wiretapping activity."
Several months later, when Tsai filed her own state discrimination case, the suit alleges, DeMaria told Tahilani that was it, she was not going to stay as superintendent.
Tahiliani and Tsai were subjected to demeaning and racist comments, abusive and disparate treatment, and unjustified and highly subjective discriminatory and retaliatory attacks. Their main offense? Being women of color who refused to maintain a "Whites only" hiring policy for district level jobs.
The school committee hired Tahilani in 2019 to replace long-time Superintendent and now convicted sex offender Frederick Forestiere.
Tahiliani and Tsai allege that from the start, DeMaria could not countenance anybody who was not White running schools - even though the student body is overwhelmingly of color - and that he took a series of steps to hobble them, including getting a home-rule petition passed to add himself to the school committee, withholding funds from the school system and encouraging City Hall officials with dealings with the school to bypass them completely and work only with school managers who were White. At one point, the suit alleges, DeMaria's allies on the committee told her to stay home instead of attending committee meetings and that they would summon her if needed.
As recommended by the Department of Education and Secondary Education ("DESE"), public school districts are encouraged to increase diversity of staff that represent the demographics of the student population. To achieve this goal, Tahiliani began to hire staff that were culturally diverse, including establishing important new positions such as the Family Engagement Manager and the Chief Equity Officer, both of which were filled with minority candidates. As a result of this, Mayor DeMaria began to openly accuse her of being a racist to members of the School Committee and the school community, stating that she only hired people of color and that she hates White people
But even with her hires, the suit says, the Everett school workforce remains 80% White.
The suit lists five specific legal charges, including retaliation, discrimination on the basis of race and national origin and creating a hostile work environment. They are seeking a jury trial at which to make their case and seek damages and an end to the discrimination and hostile workplace.