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.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Latter Announces Support for Override

School Committee member James Latter announced his support of the Override last night in a comment to a post on Save Beverly Schools.

Latter, who had been the only School Committee member that had not taken a position on the override, has studied the details of all the proposals and understands the city and school budget perhaps more than anyone. In addition to being a member of the school committee, he chaired the ad-hoc group that looked into all the proposals. He was also a member of the group that put together the City 5-Year Financial Forecast document earlier this year.

In his post, Latter states:

"After looking at all the plans presented, and considering what is possible, and what is probable, I have concluded that the only way to avoid calamity in our school system over the next few years is to support the override on June 3."

The full test of his post is below:
Why I'm voting yes

After looking at all the plans presented, and considering what is possible, and what is probable, I have concluded that the only way to avoid calamity in our school system over the next few years is to support the override on June 3. I appreciate the Mayor coming to the table with more funds, but even his offer of several hundred thousand dollars to keep the Pre K through 5 elementary model in 5 schools is not ultimately sustainable past next year. It is my opinion that if we close McKeown school for the 5 school model using every available revenue stream, we still need several hundred thousand dollars in other cuts ($250,000 to 400,000 anyway). We will be in a situation next year where the budget shortfall will still be in close to $1 million(if not more), we will not have realized the savings of the 4 and 1 ECC model, we will have used up any potential revenue streams from recycling. We will again be looking at slashing programs, or implementing more consolidation. If it is not the will of the School committee to implement the 4 and 1 plan recommended by the superintendent, the only viable option for the children of Beverly in general, and the children of the McKeown school in particular, not to have their elementary school careers disrupted numerous times is to vote yes on the override question on Tuesday June 3rd.

There are many unknowns in any budget cycle, and with important issues such as a self imposed tax increase, people look for guarantees, especially moving beyond next year as to where specific revenues from this ballot question will go. I know that all elected officials who have been asked have stated that if this override passes these funds will be made available for several years anyway. Such promises can seem fleeting, however, the one guarantee I can give is that if this override passes the quality of education over the next several years will be better than if it does not. If the override fails, the quality of education will be diminished, that I guarantee.

This is not an easy decision. As I have stated publicly before, there are many who believe they cannot afford even this modest increase, who will vote no on this question, and should not be chastised for this difficult decision. However, there are also those who feel that the investment in education is a most important endeavor, who will vote yes, and they should not be chastised either. We cannot look at paying taxes for education as an obligation to educate our own children that diminishes after our children have utilized public schools. Public education is an obligation due by all in our current society to this community’s young people, and this obligation is ongoing. At the end of the day, if we look at education as only a cost, we have already lost the battle. Public education is about an investment. It is about an investment in the future of this community and this society. I asked before that all please vote their conscience, I repeat that request, and thank you for taking a minute to share my thinking on the issue.

Jim Latter
Beverly School Committee, Ward 3

All school committee members (except Mayor Scanlon) have now taken a position on the Override. David Manzi is opposed; the other five members are in favor.

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