Essaibi George vies for mayor as ‘Boston girl’ with immigrant roots
Some have called her a moderate in the race, a candidate looking to corral some of the base of voters loyal to former mayor Marty Walsh, her Dorchester neighbor growing up and a longtime political ally. Annissa Essaibi George describes herself simply as a “pragmatic and practical elected official, legislator, leader.”
One of six candidates vying in the open race for mayor, the at-large city councilor often cites the on-the-ground experience that would guide her pragmatic approach to challenges facing the city. That includes her time operating a small business — Essaibi George owns the Stitch House, a Dorchester yarn shop — but foremost among the practical experiences she points to are her 13 years as a Boston high school teacher prior to her 2015 election to the council.
“Every candidate for mayor for generations has always said, give me the responsibility of the schools. Let me do this work. I will lead, I will change,” Essaibi George said on this week’s episode of The Codcast. “I believe that that argument, that debate needs to end with me. As a former classroom teacher, I think that I’ve got both the experiences and the understanding of our school system to actually do this work. It’s time to hire a teacher for that job.”
Essaibi George’s father, a Tunisian immigrant, took a job as a security guard at Boston University because it meant she could attend BU for free, and she sees the similar education aspirations working-class Bostonians have for their children today.
We say, “our kids fell off track,” said Essaibi George. “They didn’t fall. The adults in the room, the adults making the decisions, pushed those kids off track.” She said the system has particularly failed special education students, with way too many students, especially “black and brown boys,” consigned to separate classrooms who could, with the right supports, be mainstreamed into regular classes.
“When we talk about the school-to-prison pipeline, I believe that that pipeline goes directly through our special education sub[stantially] separate classrooms,” she said.
Essaibi George did not point to the usual suspect in conversations about public school woes — funding. “It’s not about additional resources,” she said, citing Boston’s per pupil spending level of $27,000 per student “We’ve got a school budget that’s a billion and a half dollars. I mean, that is a significant amount of money. I think that we’ve made some poor decisions on how we spend that money.”
She cited things like the need for a literacy curriculum that is aligned across all schools, revamped school starting times so that high schools begin later, and a strategic plan for long-troubled Madison Park Vocational Technical High School, which she vowed to roll out in her first 100 days in office, if elected.
Essaibi George has received lots of donations from Boston police officers, and she recently won the endorsement of former police commissioner William Gross. While that might be a clear boon in previous races, it raises questions today about her commitment to reform amid local and national movements for greater police accountability.
“I’m proud of the support that I have from former commissioner Gross, and in his endorsement, he spoke to the relationship that we built over the years in my capacity as a city councilor to do the work and to hold those that are doing the work accountable,” she said.
The daughter of an immigrant Catholic Polish mother and a Muslim father from Tunisia, Essaibi George identifies as a person of color, but said Arab Americans have always found themselves sitting outside the conventional categorizations of race in America.
“As an Arab, as an Arab woman, as the daughter of an Arab who had, I think, a very difficult experience sort of settling here in the city of Boston, identity has always been really important to me,” she said. “When we think about ethnicity, when we think about whether a person qualifies as a person of color, Arabs, over time, always fell in this sort of in-between place where sometimes we count, sometimes we don’t. It creates challenges for those of us that are Arab to not be seen sometimes for who we are and to not have our stories and our experiences present, or acknowledged.”
“I always use those conversations as an opportunity to share my story, to share my history, to talk about my dad in particular,” she said “and to share the way growing up in a mixed household, both culturally, ethnically, and religiously — how that impacted me and how that continues to influence me.”
Waiting in the ER: A shortage of pediatric mental health beds at hospitals means more and more youths find themselves stuck for extended periods of time in emergency departments waiting for an opening. The practice has become so common that it has its own name — boarding, which is defined as waiting more than 12 hours in an ER for a placement. This unfortunate trend has several ramifications:
- The length of time that children must board means an already difficult situation is made worse for them by the stress and lack of mental health treatment while they are waiting.
- Families may hesitate to seek emergency room care, knowing it will result in a long, difficult wait.
- If large numbers of psychiatric patients are boarding, it can disrupt hospital operations and result in longer waits for people seeking urgent medical care, if the medical beds are filled with people who are simply waiting for a psychiatric bed to open up.
- “Now we just have this paradigm shift where we’re having children stay in a place that was not literally built for people to stay in,” said Katie Stuart-Shor, a pediatric nurse practitioner in Boston Children’s Hospital’s emergency department.
- Read more.
Homeschooling increases: The number of kids homeschooled in Massachusetts more than doubled this school year to 17,137. Given the pandemic, the increase was not unexpected. The big question now is whether the numbers will plummet with the threat of COVID-19 ebbing or whether they will just taper off. Read more.
HIV cases spike: New data indicate cases of HIV are spiking among Boston’s homeless population. State officials identify a cluster of 134 new cases; not long ago the officials were talking about eradicating HIV.
- The new cases appear to be linked to drug use, fueled by the rising popularity of fentanyl, which requires users to inject more frequently, and to methamphetamines, which can lead to risky behavior.
- The new HIV cases are not linked to the coronavirus pandemic, but the situation may be more severe because of it, primarily because of a loss of services, like needle exchanges.
“I forgot:” Gov. Charlie Baker says he forgot he interviewed former Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh prior to swearing him in. Read more.
No test: Rose Levine, a teacher in the Cambridge schools, explains why she is refusing to administer the MCAS test. She says she is a conscientious objector to a test that harms her students. Read more.
Running the numbers: Eileen McAnnenny of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation makes an economic argument for bridging the racial divide and realizing the state’s full potential. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Gov. Charlie Baker re-files a bill to create a Medal of Fidelity to honor veterans who died of service-related illnesses and injuries. (Associated Press)
A Globe editorial sides with the Senate in the legislative showdown over the state’s film tax credit, agreeing with the idea of limiting the benefit and setting a new date for the policy to be reviewed.
A veterans group and a union representing state workers are ripping Gov. Charlie Baker over his handling of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home deaths, criticizing the hiring of its former superintendent, Bennett Walsh, who had no experience in health care management. (Boston Herald)
Homelessness is down in New Bedford, but will it last? (Standard-Times)
Springfield officials look back at the impact of rebuilding the city 10 years after a devastating tornado. (MassLive)
Nurses at Addison Gilbert and Beverly hospitals plan to hold an informational picket this week to protest staffing shortages and low pay. (Gloucester Daily Times)
A Bristol County organization is exploring why some communities don’t vote and what can be done about it. (Taunton Daily Gazette) In Texas, meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott vows to veto the section of the state budget funding the salaries of state lawmakers after Democrats walked out of the chamber, blocking a vote on legislation to cut back polling hours and curb mail-in voting. (Texas Tribune)
The 2022 state election could see enormous turnover in statewide offices depending on the moves made by current officeholders. (Boston Globe)
A gay Republican candidate for the 2nd Congressional District seat is calling for the resignation of a Republican State Committee member who said she was “sickened” by the fact that he and his husband have two adopted children. (Boston Globe)
Polar Park opens at 100 percent capacity today, with masks not required for vaccinated WooSox fans. (Telegram & Gazette)
Native Americans are pushing for Ivy League colleges like Harvard to do more to atone for past wrongs. (Associated Press)
A UMass Dartmouth teacher training program helped Fall River retain its teachers, then expanded to New Bedford and Southbridge. The university is now looking to expand the successful program further. (The Herald News)
Todd Gazda, the former superintendent of the Ludlow schools, takes over as executive director of the Collaborative for Educational Services in Northampton. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
An exhibit at the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard is embroiled in controversy over an artist’s claims of Native American ancestry, with critics saying museums have an obligation to verify such claims with tribal authorities. (Boston Globe)
KINDEr, a new supernatural thriller television series based on the Salem Witch Trials, is being written by Worcester resident Adam Morey and will film exclusively in Massachusetts. (Telegram & Gazette)
Boston Police Commissioner Dennis White, who faces a likely ouster after a meeting tomorrow morning with Acting Mayor Kim Janey, has secured videotaped depositions from his daughter and former sister-in-law, both of whom say he never abused his former wife and was instead the victim of her frequent abuse. (Boston Globe)
Boston authorities target rising serious crime around “Mass & Cass.” (MassLive)
John Celestino, the publisher of three New York dailies who spent 14 years working for newspapers in Philadelphia, becomes the new publisher of North of Boston Media Group. (Salem News)Tennis star Naomi Osaka withdraws from the French Open after being threatened with expulsion for refusing to participate in post-match press conferences. Osaka, who said the struggles with depression, indicated the questions from reporters sometimes affected her confidence. (New York Times)