This site aims to inform and mobilize Beverly parents to take an active role in all issues related to the funding and operation of the city's schools. It was launched in the spring of 2008, when the city saw its first-ever override attempt fail, followed by the closure of a nearly-new elementary school. Subsequent years have seen further cuts that have led to larger class sizes across the district. While the opening of an impressive new high school and plans to replace the city's aging middle school give us reason to be optimistic, the school community must be ever vigilant in demanding appropriate school funding by city and state governments, and better community communications from the district and School Committee.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Questions for Dr. Hayes

On Friday, a group of more than 60 elementary school parents met to discuss the current budget crisis. The following is a letter from Michelle Morrow Curreri that was sent to Dr. Hayes requesting further information on a number of details in his proposal.

Dr. Hayes:
I had the privilege of being part of a community meeting this morning that focused on the current proposal for Beverly schools and have been elected to send you this email. We were 60+ strong and had a very constructive meeting. Out of this meeting came numerous questions that we need information on prior to the public hearing on April 1st. We would very much appreciate answers so that we as concerned Beverly citizens can assist the School Committee in addressing the budget issues. Please let me detail each in turn:
  • What prevents the School Committee from preparing a budget that works and provides for our children and submitting to the Mayor and City Council who then have the elected responsibility to balance the citywide budget?
  • What is the timeline for implementation of the alternative secondary school? What are the costs involved in transforming McKeown for this purpose? Will the city cover the costs involved? When does it become revenue generating? Where does the staffing for this facility come from and how will that impact future budgets?
  • What is the plan for next year when we are again faced with double digit increases in utilities, health insurance and special education?
  • What are the benefits of a dedicated Early Childhood Center as opposed to the current model?
  • In the presentation, there is a statistic that states that class size has very little influence on student success. Where did this statistic come from? Is there an explanation provided as to why this study is the valid one when for years the opposite has been cited as the truth?
  • There are many statistics cited throughout the proposal. Can we please have more details on the sources for this information?
  • In addition to what is presented on slide 15, were there other alternatives considered i.e.: closing Memorial altogether, not providing preschool to peer models, freezing administrative staff salaries, etc.?
  • Are preschool classes full now? Does the peer modeling portion generate revenue to cover expenses? If the preschool enrollment is "exploding" what portion is special education? How has this increase been factored into sustainability of the current proposal?
  • What are the School Choice costs and revenues we are realizing?
  • Given the scope of Special Education and the enormous costs involved, can we see a very detailed breakdown of this line item?
  • Do the projected class size numbers include the Special Education students that are integrated into the classroom? If not, why? What safety and space issues have been discussed and addressed?
  • What are the future plans to account for population changes and student increases? How have you accounted for Beverly students that may return to the public school system from private or parochial schools?
  • Why is there no grant money included in this budget? What grants are we going after and which ones do we anticipate receiving based upon previous history. Doesn't this mean that the shortfall could actually be less? Are there other grants that we should be applying for?
  • How can we maintain quality of education when the population of the students remains the same but we are losing paraprofessionals and reading teachers. With this loss, how can the schools comply with specific IEPs that are Federally mandated?
  • How do we handle logistics with the increases in students i.e.: lunches, assemblies, parking, etc.? What are the safety implications for the children and how does this affect insurance coverage? Are there structural changes that need to be made to any of the physical facilities to accommodate the shifting population? Have these costs been captured?
  • What would the cost be to climate all bussing? How much could be saved in consolidating services?
  • At Briscoe Middle School, we just reconfigured the teaching teams. What is the educational impact of doing this again?
  • Can we get a detailed breakdown of the roles, responsibilities and salaries for each administrative position (Supervisors, Directors, Clerks, etc.)
I thank you in advance for your cooperation here. Please do send me the
information as soon as possible so that we can distribute this to all
concerned and have a productive meeting on Tuesday night.

Best Regards,
Michelle Morrow Curreri

If you have any other questions, please bring them to the Tuesday meeting, or leave them as comments here.


BrunhildeCrow said...

Wow! When can we get this woman to run for school committee? Or mayor?

There are questions here that never would have occured to me - well done!

bevcitizen said...

It has been noted that the school committee and the mayor have been discussing this proposal for several years now, why is it that this is the first time the citizens of Beverly have been told of it? Is it because this past year was an election year????

april fool said...

The proposed secondary special-education school is a step backwards for special-needs students. There is a lack of integration with typically-developing peers. Many children have integration goals on their IEPs. How would these goals be met?
Integration is great for the special-needs student as well as for the typically-developing peer. The peer learns an invaluable lesson about those with special-needs.
Chapter 766 states that children need to be taught in the LEAST RESTRICTIVE ENVIRONMENT. Having special-needs children that are in the public schools go to this specialized school is a a step backwards.
Chapter 766:
Chapter 766, Massachusetts special education law, is designed to define the needs of children requiring special education in a broad and flexible manner, to minimize the possibility of stigmatization, and to maximize the child's development in the least restrictive environment.

The Massachusetts Department of Education has lead responsibility for ensuring that all provisions of Chapter 766 are met, for promulgating the regulations for its implementation, and for ensuring that the provisions of other state and federal special education laws are also met.

Anonymous said...

(Side Note: Why is everyone so shy and anonymous on here? We don't bite... if you have an opinion and you can back it up with facts, put your name on here. We will respect you a bit more.)

Chapter 766 is a law written in 1970 and consdiered ground-breaking at the time. Without "copying" the exact words from the websites out there, it can be interpreted that the Special Ed school is also a very integrated way to help children. I will explain further down.

Any such proposal has to be reviewed anyway. Other districts do this and we in Beverly pay to send children to such environments.

It is then up to the individual parent to show that this school is restrictive and that they can find a better location. Then Beverly, by law, has to make sure they can attend that location (from our budget.).

Currently, the City of Beverly programs are considered restrictive and many children are shipped out f district. This cost hurts non-special needs children (remember that everyone is entitled to an equal education that fits their needs) as well as being a burden on the Special Needs children and their families (they are away from their home district and environment).

While, it's certainly not perfect, it should be considered a step forward. This secondary school is not a place to dump all Special Needs Children in Beverly. It is a place for Special Needs children who can't integrate into the normal school environment.. but still wish to attend Beverly Public Schools.

The exact responsibilities and programs available at this location are very vague at this stage of the budget process. I would definitely withhold judgment until more clarification is presented.

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