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Former Everett superintendent’s alleged sex assault victims describe the toll on their families

‘His actions will affect me for the rest of my life’

Former Everett Public Schools Superintendent Frederick F. Foresteire listened Friday as his attorney spoke in Malden District Court.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Former employees of the Everett Public Schools offered gut-wrenching public statements about the impact of alleged sexual assaults by Superintendent Frederick F. Foresteire, saying he not only retaliated against them in the workplace but also punished their children in school.

“Imagine being a child and suddenly having more than half of the teachers and staff begin bullying you, tormenting you,” said one of three women who offered victim impact statements in Malden District Court on Friday.

“Until this year, nobody did anything to help me,” she went on, her voice cracking with emotion. “Nobody helped me within a school district of hundreds of people.”

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The woman, whose name is being withheld by the Globe as an alleged victim of assault, was the first to speak out against Foresteire four years ago, prompting allegations by other school employees and an investigation by Everett police. Foresteire, who was placed on leave and then retired, now faces six counts of indecent assault and one count of assault and battery. He is scheduled to face trial in February.

The explosive testimony in court on Friday came after years of inaction and silence on the case, while Foresteire maintained his innocence and convinced many in Everett that he was wrongly accused. For years, his criminal case file was impounded; a $50,000 report by an independent investigator commissioned by the school committee remains confidential. The school committee settled sexual harassment complaints with three women who are bound to confidentiality outside criminal court.

Foresteire, 79, indicated for the first time at a court hearing last month that he would change his plea, admitting to facts sufficient to find him guilty. That shook many in this old-school city where Foresteire had held the levers of political power through patronage over three decades as superintendent.

Everett is awash in scandals with three female school administrators who succeeded Foresteire each having filed discrimination complaints against Mayor Carlo DeMaria, the city, and the schools. The city and schools are also facing a sweeping federal discrimination probe conducted by US Attorney Rachael Rollins and the US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division after racist incidents among elected officials and city staff.

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In the case against Foresteire, three women who worked for him alleged that he cornered, groped, or grabbed them, subjecting one to graphic sexual questioning when she worked the school switchboard.

His impact went far beyond the touching, they allege, as he wielded power in the workplace to humiliate and isolate them, transferring them to lesser jobs, firing them, and even interfering with their children’s special education plans to punish them for rebuffing his advances or speaking up about him.

A second woman who testified told the court she initially tolerated his behavior and just tried to avoid him because, “I knew he was vindictive and cruel to people who crossed him and I knew he would get to me through my family. He would punish them because of me and I couldn’t bear that thought.”

When she got to her breaking point and spoke up, he treated her as if he were sending her to detention — ordering her to sit in a separate office for two weeks with no job duties.

“Not one person in that office would speak or even look at me,” she said. “He treated me like a child, like I was the one who had done something wrong, told me to sit down and be quiet until I was told otherwise. I still struggle with the fact that I wasn’t strong enough to tell him no.”

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The first accuser said that Everett teachers would “follow and harass my daughter while at Everett High School,” and that even after her children transferred to other schools, Foresteire showed up at her son’s football games. Her first-grader was placed in a classroom that contradicted his special education plan, and his teacher mocked him for being unable to tie his shoe, forcing him to try repeatedly, in front of all his classmates.

“He was so physically upset that when I picked him up from school he began shaking and crying uncontrollably,” she said. “It was extremely hard for him to understand why these things were happening to him.”

She also said that the family would sometimes find Foresteire’s car —a flashy Cadillac with his initials, “FFF” as a recognizable vanity plate — parked beside theirs.

“‘Mom, is he following us?’” her kids would ask, she told the court.

The final woman who spoke told the court that she was punished after an episode involving the Cadillac; she alleged Foresteire had slapped and rubbed her buttocks outside the school building as she congratulated him on his new car. Soon, she was terminated from her position in special education.

“I would like to see the defendant register as a sexual offender, she said. “He has shown no remorse for his actions.”

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In appearing in court on Friday, Foresteire was seeking a continuation without a finding, which would allow him to avoid a conviction and possibly continue receiving his pension. His attorney, Gerard Malone, said Foresteire wanted to retain his pension for his wife of more than 50 years.

Both Malone and Foresteire declined comment to the Globe.

After hearing the victim impact statements, Malone spoke of Foresteire’s long tenure and accomplishments in education. Under his leadership, Malone said, Everett created a free preschool program; rebuilt the public schools, and was named one of the best places to live by Boston Magazine.

“Society does not benefit by him registering as a sex offender,” Malone said. “He certainly is no risk with respect to the public.”

Prosecutors from Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan’s office opposed the plea change, however, calling for him to serve time in prison.

Judge Emily A. Karstetter rejected a continuation without a finding, recommending a guilty finding with 18 months in the House of Correction. In response, Foresteire withdrew the plea and requested a jury trial, now scheduled to begin Feb. 6.

Mark Rotondo, an attorney representing the women, said his representation in court showed further disrespect.

“They poured their hearts out today and his attorney got up and read his resume,” said Rotondo. “He did not deny their stories.”

The controversy has shaken Everett, a city of tribal rivalries whose battle lines were vividly drawn across the courtroom. Behind the accusers sat a group of the women’s supporters, two of whom wore T-shirts with feminist slogans, like “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

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Behind Foresteire sat a cluster of elderly white men, who cheered him after the proceedings.

“You did OK, you did fine,” one of the men told him.

The supporter, who declined to give his name, told the Globe, “I think he’s a good man. He ran a good school system.”

Asked about two women’s assertions that he punished their children for rebuffing his advances, he said: “I don’t believe that at all.”

“That guy had 13 championships in football,” the man said. “All his players, they went to college. Some of them went into the pros. He did a hell of a job.”


Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert.