From the News Desk
Schiavo, MacLaughlin Lead Tremendously Successful Effort
on Behalf of EPS Students
Soon after the Everett Public Schools began remote learning in September, Parlin School social studies teacher Stacy Schiavo received a phone call from Everett Firefighter Joe MacLaughlin. He was cleaning out a family home and had a desk that he thought might be nice for a student.
Five months later, with the help of a very long and ever-expanding list of donors and volunteers, Schiavo and MacLaughlin have purchased, assembled, and delivered more than 100 desks to students in the Everett Public Schools.
“When Joe made the offer, I sent it out through Class Dojo and six families immediately responded,” Schiavo recalled. “I realized that this was a fundamental need for so many of our students. I didn’t want to say ‘no’ to anyone.”
The idea quickly blossomed into a full-fledged community outreach program. Schiavo and MacLaughlin began by seeking desk donations from their family, friends, and residents, including School Committee member Marcony Almeida Barros. The need for desks was not isolated; it was common. And, naturally, it was heightened by the fact that most of our students are participating in remote education from home.
Today, the desk drive is running like a machine, with Schiavo collecting and organizing requests and ordering new desks, usually on Amazon. Donors range far and wide, from educators to city employees to former residents to retired educators, as well as numerous city and elected officials.
MacLaughlin and a dedicated team of firefighters oversee the assembly and delivery of the desks. Schiavo’s husband, Mike, has also helped prep the desks for students. When the initiative started, Schiavo said, one or two desks were delivered per week. Now it’s up to six to 10 deliveries per week.
“Yesterday, a UPS driver dropped off 14 desks in my driveway,” MacLaughlin said. “She asked me what I was doing, and when I told her she said ‘These just got a little lighter.’”
Schiavo and MacLaughlin have become experts in All Things Desk, from where to order them to what sizes work best for younger students vs. middle schoolers. The average cost of a desk, including shipping, is approximately $45-70, and they have found that it is better to order brand-new desks rather than receive donated ones.
Smaller, relatively easy-to-assemble desks work best, primarily because they are more suitable for carrying up multiple flights of stairs. Also, bigger is not necessarily better, because a lot of students share bedrooms with siblings.
MacLaughlin said the expression on the faces of the students is more than reward enough for the countless hours he has devoted to this project. Schiavo says the “feeling she gets from helping others has given her a sense of purpose” during the pandemic. Both said that students and parents have, upon receiving a desk, asked when they have to return it to the district. “The kids are thrilled when they realize that the desk is theirs to keep,” MacLaughlin said.
MacLaughlin’s ties to the EPS are more sturdy than any desk money could buy. He was a teacher before making a career change and joining the EFD. He coached both the Crimson Tide boys and girls hockey teams. His mother, Helen, is a retired EPS teacher and principal. His father, Lester, was a longtime member of the Everett School Committee. And his sister, Helen Martin, is a teacher in the district.
“The success of this and the amount of people who are involved,” McLaughlin said, “It’s so Everett to me — the entire community coming together to support others despite the difficult time we are experiencing.”
Superintendent Priya Tahiliani called the desk project, “Nothing short of awe inspiring,” adding that “Ms. Schiavo’s proactive approach is emblematic of the creative ways our educators have met the unforeseen factors of the pandemic.”
The desk drive will leave a lasting benefit on the students who receive one. After all, even when our students return to school they will need a place to do their homework.