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 14, 2008

"This Community is Still United"

Those words, from one Hannah parent, summed up the crowd's response to Mayor Scanlon's eleventh hour plan to close only McKeown, and spare Cove School. Scanlon delivered the proposal at tonight's School Committee meeting. The plan was released to the Beverly Citizen, and posted on their website less than two hours before the start of the meeting, and before it was given to the Superintendent or members of the School Committee. The details are summarized in the post immediately below this.

In his proposal, Scanlon said that many of the Superintendent's numbers, specifically on transportation and tuition revenue, were questionable. He also questioned the rationale for the Early Childhood Center. But Dr. Hayes, guessing at what Scanlon's proposal would be, came prepared with numbers of his own to show that dividing up the McKeown community among the five other schools would not produce the savings Scanlon claimed, and would result in increased transportation costs, higher class sizes than even the original plan, and a street-by-street reassignment of McKeown children.

Scanlon also pushed the plan as the best way to achieve equal distribution of free and reduced lunch students, but Hayes responded that trying to achieve perfect balance throughout the city was "a fool's errand" and "unachievable."

Council President Annemarie Cesa also dismissed Scanlon's plan as unsustainable, and told Scanlon that if he had the money, he should fund the six schools for a year to give them more time to work on this. She, and other members of the committee, also objected to the way Scanlon prepared the plan, and questioned why he waited until the day of the vote to release his plan, when there have been nearly two months of meetings on the subject.

After the Committee debate, many members of the audience spoke, with most dismissing Scanlon's plan as an attempt to "divide the community" and "derail the override drive." Even those who didn't outright dismiss the plan, wondered how Scanlon expected them to evaluate the plan at this late date. Notably, a majority of parents who spoke out against the plan, and in support of McKeown, were Cove parents, with one calling it an "attempt to sacrifice one school to appease another." Many spoke of the remarkable unity that has been achieved throughout the city, and said that if it was the Mayor's intention to break this unity, that he had seriously misjudged the mood of the city.

Some speakers passed on even mentioning the Mayor's plan, and spoke only of the need to support the override now more than ever.

The Committee then voted to schedule a new School Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday night, and moved on to other business.

5/15 UPDATE: Here is the report from Thursday's Salem News. The Citizen weighs in too.

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