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.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Morning After Musings

After a dizzying night that saw the debate on the two plans drag on seemingly endlessly with no resolution—then move at lightning speed to a conclusion, we have a few thoughts. (Note: details of the meeting are in the post below)

After nearly two months of analysis on Dr. Hayes' plan by the public, the School Committee, and an ad-hoc group, the Committee has now approved a different plan that has only been known of for a week. A plan with virtually no study as to the implications, feasibility, or true cost savings. And a plan that the Superintendent clearly opposes, and has had no time to make any plan for implementation. The debate last night added no clarity at all.

In the end, as the best of bad options, Scanlon's plan just might be "less bad" than the Superintendent's plan. But with what citizens heard last night, there is still not enough information to know that, and there certainly was not enough information for the Committee to have voted it in as the future of education in Beverly, should the Override fail.

Also, we take issue with the semantics of the portrayal of this as "the 4-school plan vs. the 5-school plan." Leaving the reuse of McKeown aside, in both cases McKeown is being eliminated as an elementary school, and Cove is being used to house children. In the Superintendent's plan, Cove houses only Pre-K and K, while in the Mayor's plan, those kids are divided up somehow (we don't know how) between the other schools and Cove stays an elementary school. But both plans use the same 5 schools, and house the same number of kids in those 5 schools. Therefore we assume both plans would have similar class size issues. Just do the math.

Presenting this as closing one school versus closing two schools is very misleading, especially to the public contemplating the Override. Who wouldn't pick the option to close only one school vs. two, if that was really what was happening. And many undecideds will see this as a positive step, and be less inclined to support the Override. Was that the Mayor's intention?

In reality, this is all the more reason to support the Override because of the chaos that implementiion of this vague plan will cause at this late date.

While the wisdom of the ECC model is questionable, Dr. Hayes' plan at least seemed carefully crafted to keep school communities as whole as possible, and spread the pain around. Mayor Scanlon's plan seems to only to be politically expedient, and inflicts much of the pain on one school community. His decision to take his money off the table and go home if the committee didn't approve his plan, was, in the words of one parent "akin to larceny."

We also would like to hear Jim Latter's explanation for supporting BOTH plans, and Ms. Cesa's explanation for not having this very important vote televised. BevCam says the decision was hers.

Please add to this debate by hitting the comment link below:


Anonymous said...

Beautifully said my friend.

As stated in the last entry, I have asked the School Committee members to send me the information they used to vote or not vote for the Mayor's plan. I would like to review it in details as did they to make sure it is fiscally sound.

I have also asked the Mayor to send or post his numbers as Dr. Hayes so willing did.

I encourage all of you to do the same.

(You can find all their contact info here:

Jim Latter said...

To understand my vote on both plans, you have to understand the timeline.

1st of all, we had the vote on Dr Hayes Plan, which I was in favor of. The vote to endorse this plan failed 4-3. After this I put forward a motion to support the Mayor's plan. The ECC (4 & 1) plan was already off the table, and given the fact that we still face enormous revenue shortfall's even considering any new money that might be realized from less spending on trash, we still need a reduction in spending. I didn't like the 5 school model as much as the 4 and 1 model, but it did lead to a reduction in spending, and was the only alternative left. Secondly, and probably more importantly from a parliamentary viewpoint, if the 5 school plan ends up not being viable, only a member who voted in the majority can move for a reconsideration of a previously decided vote, and since I voted for the majority I have reserved the right to do so.

jhall said...

Thanks for the explanation Jim, especially of the parliamentary rules.

Then I guess you could say you "voted for it, before you voted against it."

jhall said...

Sorry Jim, I couldn't resist that.

Anonymous said...

According to the Bev Citizen's editor, in answer to a question I posed to him... the School Committee has yet to vote on a formal budget. Technically, there is no school budget yet... and for now just a school-closing plan. I guess that still eaves the recycling thing to be examined and explains Jim voting Yes on a plan that has no formal presentation as of yet.

Not sure how this affects what we are all thinking but it would be another interesting question for the Committee...

Anonymous said...

Aside from Jim writing here and at the Salem News site, there hasn't been any responses I have seen from other Committee members. (Yes I know that they have day jobs and lives too.. I am willing to wait.)

Wasn't the School Committee complaining just last week that it was unfair that the ad-hoc committee was privy to information they hadn't received from the Administration? And yet they vote now (either yes or no, doesn't matter to me)on numbers no one in the public forum has seen? How can you complain about one item not having information to help understand it and yet just go vote on one that doesn't? If we could see proof of how it works then maybe this might be seen as a good idea (Yes, I agree if the numbers are there it might work.). If we find out they voted on just a "promise" and some tossed up numbers... ugh.

I would love to see the documentation that was presented... just like the ad-hoc committee did before they made their recommendation.

Does anyone have this documentation or these actual numbers?

Note: I am not singling out any Committee member. This is directed to all members. I am just confused...