Haverhill Mayor Says He Had No Advance Word on State Plans to Resume In-Person Learning

Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley Feb. 26 at Nock-Molin Middle School in Newburyport. (Nicolaus Czarnecki/Boston Herald/Pool photograph.)

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill’s mayor said he did not have any advance notice of the state’s plans to return to in-person learning when he proposed last month a full school return in April.

An 8-3 vote by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Friday afternoon gave state Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley extraordinary powers to end remote and hybrid learning. Riley said he wants to start by having elementary school students return to full in-person learning next month and all classes back by fall. Haverhill Education Association President Anthony J. Parolisi questions what Mayor James J. Fiorentini knew and when.

“For him to pull out that April 1st date without it being on the agenda when he did and for the way it came out from the commissioner and the governor shortly thereafter, you’d have to be very naïve to think that Mayor Fiorentini with all of his experience and his political connections didn’t know something for him to pull that April 1st date out of thin air like that,” he told WHAV.

Fiorentini told WHAV this weekend he was not tipped off to the state’s plans when he made his proposal Feb. 11.

“Great minds think alike. I didn’t have any advance knowledge, but I’m very, very happy with what Jeff Riley did, the secretary of education. It’s time for our children to be back in the classroom,” Fiorentini said.

The mayor added Haverhill started it and “I’m glad the secretary of education agrees with us.”

Anthony J. Parolisi, a social studies teacher at Consentino School, is president of the Haverhill Education Association.

The educators’ union had already planned meetings among members, but Parolisi said, Friday’s announcement “makes those conversations even more urgent.”

“The Board of Education unfortunately, for the first time ever, authorized a single, unelected person to have unilateral authority over every elected School Committee in the state,” said Parolisi.

Following the mayor’s recommendation last month, Haverhill School Committee members voted 6-1 to direct Superintendent Margaret Marotta to advance a reopening proposal. Member Toni Sapienza-Donais dissented.

Pentucket Regional School District, which is comprised of Groveland, Merrimac and West Newbury, also began planning for the transition. Superintendent Justin Bartholomew said Saturday, “Our district has always sought to bring students back to a fully in-person learning model as soon as it was safe to do so, and we eagerly await further guidance on next steps from the state.”

The district’s “100% Pentucket” Committee met Friday and said a survey with 1,028 parents and guardians responding showed 88.5% of families of students in kindergarten through grade six support sending their students back with three-foot social distancing.

Comments are closed.