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.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Council Votes on Trash Fee, School Maintenance

With two Councilors voting for it after they voted against it last week, the City Council voted to keep the trash fee at $100 for FY09. Council President Tim Flaherty, who originally proposed a $20 reduction in the fee, explained that since he didn't have the votes to approve the reduction, a vote against the full $100 fee could result in no fee at all next year. Wes Slate also voted for the full fee, after voting for the reduction last week.

For procedural reasons, there will need to be yet another vote on the fee sometime in July.

The Council last night also debated, and voted unanimously to have the city Department of Public Services take over maintenance of the school buildings and grounds.

The change still needs to be approved by the School Committee.

DPS Director Michael Collins explained how the restructured department would work, with school custodians reporting to DPS, but answerable on a daily basis to the school principals. The school maintenance budget would still be controlled by the school department.

The plan has been studied for some time by members of the Council and School Committee, and most Councilors seemed generally receptive to the idea, as a way to control costs through efficiencies.

Yesterday's Salem News ran an editorial supportive of the plan.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Trash Vote Disintegrates

Following the budget vote (see post below), the vote to reduce the trash fee, which was on again and off again during the meeting, appeared to be on again before disintegrating into chaos.

The prior debate seemed to indicate that there were not enough votes to pass the reduction. Maureen Troubetaris, who would have been the deciding vote, said she would vote against the proposal, stating that "The people in my ward care more about their children, than they do about $20."

Troubetaris asked City Finance Director John Dunn what a reduction would mean to the sustainability of the school plan, and Dunn answered "if you reduce it [the fee], you make it less sustainable."

But when time came to vote, the Council couldn't agree on what the vote coming out of last night's Financial Committee meeting was (see here for the answer), then couldn't agree on what the process for tonight's vote should be. Don Martin walked off the stage at one point to talk with Dunn, forcing a recess, but when all returned, the process was still muddled.

Wes Slate blasted Martin, saying that if you want an illustration of why people have no faith in their government, this is it, and stating "I don't understand how the chairman of a committee doesn't understand the vote that came out of his own committee."

In the end there was a vote, and the fee reduction appeared to fail, but because of some procedural maneuvering by John Burke, it seems like the vote didn't count, and/or will need to be revisited, most likely on Monday night.

From our understanding, there is a "sunset clause" in the trash fee, that causes it to expire at the end of the fiscal year (which would be Monday), if it is not renewed.

6/27 UPDATE: Friday's Salem News clarifies some of what went on in the chaotic final moments of last night's meeting, as well as the anti-climactic final vote on the budget:

The Council did vote down the trash fee reduction, but "Burke invoked a provision that allows councilors to hold a vote, meaning the council will have to do it again at its meeting Monday. Burke said he held the vote because there was confusion over the outcome of the vote in the finance subcommittee."

The News further describes the confusion:

Councilors argued back and forth about the procedural matters, with the discussion getting heated at times. Slate objected to some councilors holding a side meeting with Finance Director John Dunn during a recess.

"If you want an example of why people voted strongly that they were dissatisfied with how government operates, this is it," Slate said.

"It's a great speech, but spare us," Martin answered.

At one point, City Council President Tim Flaherty pounded his gavel and said, "I'm stopping this. This is ridiculous."

After that, for those watching at home on BevCam, the screen went blank.

2:00 pm UPDATE: The Citizen has some further explanation of last night's trash fee follies, and the potential for more political gamesmanship with the vote on Monday night.

Council Approves School Budget

Exactly three-months after this drama began, the City Council tonight approved the school budget, essentially ending (we hope) the debate for this year. The vote was 8-1, with only Councilor Don Martin voting against it, and happened in the blink of an eye, with no further debate before the vote.

We had expected (as it seems some members of the Council did) a vote on the trash fee reduction as well, but it looks like that vote will not happen tonight. (see above post)

One other bit of school news happened earlier, when Wes Slate stated that he intends to file a motion to amend the City Charter to make the Mayor the President of the School Committee, as is done in many cities including Salem. Stay tuned for more about this sure to be controversial subject.

Trash Fee Vote is back on again now. Will update soon.

6/27 UPDATE: A couple more details on the budget vote that were lost in the trash fee confusion last night:

Councilor John Burke voted for the school budget, saying it was the "responsible thing to do," but not before protesting what he called "blackmail" on the part of the Mayor. Pat Grimes also spoke about the "very unfortunate tactics of the Mayor" and said "It's very clear that Beverly has a flawed budget process."

Wes Slate spoke out against the anonymous comments on the Salem News and Beverly Citizen web sites that sprouted up on virtually every story throughout the process. This added to the divisiveness and "corrosive mistrust of anything and anyone involved in government and politics" in the community, he said.

But on a positive note he said said much of the debate has been "heartening" because so many people became involved in the process.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

FinCom: Approve Budget; Reduce Trash Fee

After some debate about putting the $680,000 earmarked for the schools into a reserve account to await more assurances about the sustainability of the 5-school plan, the Finance Committee finally voted tonight to approve the school budget by a vote of 2-1. The vote sends the budget to the full Council for a vote tomorrow night. Council President Tim Flaherty and Councilor Judith Cronin voted in favor.

The reserve account idea was first suggested by City Financial Analyst Kathy Griffin earlier in the week, and was taken up and supported by Finance Committee Chairman Don Martin. Martin also was the lone vote against approving the budget, saying he objected to the transfer of funds.

The reserve idea was objected to strongly by Wes Slate and Pat Grimes, with Grimes stating "We can't keep pulling the rug out from under people in this city time and time again." Slate spoke of the teachers, students, and a principal that have all left the system already because of the chaos and uncertainty, and asked what more could we possibly know in two or three months that could provide any more definite guarantee of sustainability than we have now.

Mayor Scanlon also objected to the idea, saying it was time to end the uncertainty for this year. Scanlon continued to say, however, that while he believes this funding source is sustainable for a few years, that "the overall school budget has many, many problems that have to be dealt with," and "there are going to have to be further changes that we haven't even contemplated."

Despite the continued concern about sustainability, the Committee earlier in the evening voted 2-1 to recommend that the trash fee be reduced from $100 to $80 per year. Tim Flaherty introdcued the motion, and was joined by Don Martin in voting support for it.

The third voting member, Judith Cronin, descented, saying that after just closing one school, and with all the questions regarding the sustainability and general worries about continuing budget gaps outlined in the 5-year forecast, that this was not the time to be "taking away a revenue stream."

Later, during the school budget debate, Cronin spoke of the irony of councilors worrying again about sustainability, after just voting for something that would make it that much more difficult to achieve.

While the trash fee vote has no bearing on how the full Council will vote on this tomorrow night, it was clear from comments by the other non-voting members that John Burke would also support this measure, having suggested that it be reduced further. Councilors Grimes, Hobin and Coughlin all seemed to side with Cronin against the reduction; Wes Slate made no comment on the matter, and Maureen Troubetaris was absent.

The $20 per year reduction amounts to less than 40 cents per week per household, but takes $250,000 of revenue away from the city annually. While the trash fee level has no immediate bearing on the $680,000 transfer to the schools this year, it does make the long-term sustainability of that money that much more in doubt.

Mayor Scanlon said his figures, and his views on the plan's sustainability, were based on continuing the $100 fee.

The full City Council will have the final say on all of this tomorrow night at 7:00

6/26 UPDATE: Thursday's Salem News has the story.

12:15 pm UPDATE: The Citizen has just posted it's take on the meeting, saying that the move on the trash fee "may endanger Mayor Bill Scanlon’s plan to finance a fifth elementary school" and quotes City Finance Director John Dunn, as saying that money would need to be replaced:

Finance Director John Dunn said afterwards that if the full City Council were to approve the trash-fee reduction, another $250,000 would have to be used from an existing surplus in the trash fund.

Scanlon’s school plan counts on that surplus to fund trash removal and keep money in the general fund to pay for an additional $680,000 in funding for the schools. The plan would allow five elementary schools to remain open for the next five years.

From our reading of the Council members' views, the trash fee issue seems to be in the hands of Wes Slate and Maureen Troubetaris, as the others made their opinions known last night (see above.)

One other note: Mayor Scanlon continued his drive to distance himself from ownership of the current school plan last night, saying that while the plan has been attributed to him, it really was brought up by three School Committee members and was not "his" plan. Here is how we remember it.

4:30 pm UPDATE: The Heard in Beverly Blog adds a few more details.

Budget Season Winding Down?

If all goes as planned (when has that happened, lately?), there should be a resolution to the school budget, for this year at least, by the end of the week.

The Finance Subcommittee plans to debate and vote on the budget tonight. The full City Council plans to vote tomorrow night. There first needs to be a separate vote on continuing, reducing, or eliminating the $100 trash fee. And another vote, we believe, is needed to approve the Mayor's request to transfer $680,000 from the general fund to the schools.

While these issues are all related, they are legally separate issues.

Councilor Judith Cronin, in an email to constituents, has given the best explanation we have yet heard of the specifics, and what needs to be approved when, and by whom:

The trash fee must be voted in by the City Council every year. The finance subcommittee is scheduled to vote on the budget on Wednesday, June 25 and the full City Council is scheduled to take a vote on the FY09 budget on Thursday, June 26.

Much of this year’s discussion has centered on funding for the schools and the source of this funding. The Council must decide on the school budget, including the Mayor’s recommendation to give the schools an incremental $680,000. The source of this incremental funding is related to the sanitation enterprise fund. Although the trash fee does cover a portion of sanitation expense, money from the general fund is still needed to cover the remaining expense for sanitation. Due to increased recycling efforts this year, however, the amount required to be transferred from the general fund to sanitation is less, thus creating a surplus available to the city. The Mayor has decided to dedicate a portion of this surplus to the schools.

The City Council must also decide whether to maintain the trash fee. Our current $100 trash fee does not cover all of the city’s sanitation expense. A decrease to the trash fee will require an increase in the transfer to sanitation from the general fund, resulting in less funds available to other services in the city. Elimination of the trash fee will require a reduction of approximately $1.3 million of city services.

While the vote is scheduled to happen this week, and the budget goes into effect next Tuesday, we hear there are contingency plans for more meetings next week, if things are not settled by Thursday.

All remaining meetings are at Council Chambers at City Hall, and start at 7:00 pm. BevCam (Comcast Channel 10) will carry both of this weeks meetings live, and rebroadcast the following day at noon.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cove Takes Some Hits

Dr. Hayes has confirmed that popular Cove principal Karla Pressman will be moving to Centerville, as part of the elementary school reshuffling. This latest hit comes on the heels of earlier losses of Gym teacher Chris Roy, and Art teacher Gretchen Kiesling, both of whom will be leaving the district. There are also several other probable teacher losses coming as a result of redistricting.

Pressman will be replaced on an interim basis at Cove by Stacey Busick, who is currently an Administrative Team Chair in the Special Education Department.

Below is an email that went to Cove and Centerville staff.

Dear Centerville and Cove Staff Members,

Attached is a press release that will be issued later today and which announces that I have named Karla Pressman to be the new Principal of Centerville Elementary School and Stacy Bucyk to be the Interim Principal of Cove Elementary School for the 2008-09 school year. I am sure this comes as a surprise to just about all of you, and I am sending you this email to help you better understand this decision.

The Centerville Search Committee sent me three candidates in March as finalists for the Centerville principalship. That process was put on hold because of the budget shortfall discussion about closing schools and was restarted when the budget was approved June 12th. One candidate withdrew and I was not satisfied that the other two candidates were the right people for the job. I reviewed resumes of other candidates interviewed but found no one whose background interested me. I know many of you supported Chris S [3rd grade teacher
Christine Sarantopoulous, per Salem News] for this position. Though she was an impressive candidate, making the leap from classroom to principal in the same school is extremely difficult for anyone, and I was unwilling to put her in that circumstance.

I greatly appreciate the work of the Search Committee to identify quality candidates. However, the responsibility to appoint principals is mine, and the success of our schools depends upon making the best hires possible for leadership of our schools. And I have done that by appointing Karla and Stacy! Given that it is late June and not early April, I don’t have time for the usual options for a process in selecting principals. I reassigned Karla to Centerville because I believe that school faces more change than any other next year as it adjusts to a new population and becomes a Title I school. I felt a strong need to place an experienced principal there to help the school make that adjustment. Karla is perfect for that role. And I then needed a strong administrator to lead the Cove School as it experiences changes in population and the addition of the AIM program. I have been impressed with Stacy Bucyk since seeing her success as an administrative intern at Ayers a number of years ago. She has filled in for the Special Education Director when she was on a long-term leave, is currently assisting the Director in leadership of that department, and has done a terrific job in both roles. She is ready to take on the role of principal, and, with mentoring from Karla and the support of other colleagues, I know she will do a fine job as Cove principal.

Deciding to move Karla from Cove to Centerville was not easy. Karla has done a terrific job at Cove, and they are going through changes too. I know how much she will be missed. But the need for someone with her experience and expertise at Centerville was greater, and as Superintendent I had to address that need or risk a very difficult situation at Centerville. I felt Cove was in a better position to adjust to a new principal; Cove will continue to be successful even with new leadership. And so I asked Karla and then Stacy to fill these needs. While both of them are leaving behind work and relationships that they enjoy, they are enthusiastic about an opportunity to take on new challenges in their careers. They are already collaborating on how to make the transition to their new roles. Both are eager to get into their new settings, meet with staff and parents, and get ready for the arrival of students. Officially, they begin their new assignments on July 1st. Actually, both will make a gradual transition from their current roles to their new, and neither school will lag behind because of this transition period.

One thing that is going to change very little – Centerville and Cove are staffed with terrific educators! I have every confidence that you will welcome these leaders into your school communities and rally around them to make the new school year a success! If you can, contact your new principal by sending an email or dropping in during the summer – every connection makes the transition that much easier!

I hope you all have a great summer!


6/25 UPDATE: Today's Salem News has the story.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Picking Through the Trash Budget

A few notes on tonight's public hearing at City Hall, which centered around the trash fee, and school and city budget issues.

The hearing started off with comments specifically regarding the trash fee itself, as opposed to the ultimate use of the funds. A majority of these speakers were familiar faces from the NO side of the override debate, and spoke of the need to reduce the fee in light of the the reduced cost of tipping fees, and increased recycling savings. Many also spoke of the unfairness of a flat fee, and pushed for a pay-as-you-throw type fee structure.

Once the hearing moved on to the transfer of funds for the schools, more of the pro-school crowd spoke up, and most tried to take the debate beyond the immediate fund transfer, which all supported, to broader issues of sustainability, the need to look for new sources of revenue such as PILOTs, and the need to have more long-range budget planning on a regular basis.

Some speakers, including Tracey Armstrong and Amy Norton with more of a background in business and accounting dove into the fine print of the budget, and questioned some specific details on the city side of the budget. Details such as a line item of $944,000 for overtime, (including $31,000 for overtime at the library) were singled out.

They also questioned certain city budget numbers that projected FY09 figures based on previous years' estimates, rather than actual figures that were, in many cases, much lower.

6/24 UPDATE: A few other points brought up last night:

A few speakers spoke about the "collateral damage" that has already been done to our school system in the numbers of teachers, and a principal that have recently left because of of all the uncertainty; the number of families who have already chosen to school choice to other communities, or attend private school; and the ongoing problem that the system will have in attracting and retaining new teachers. They pleaded that the city council not inflict more damage by denying the fund transfer.

Some speakers pleaded for leadership from both the Council and School Committee and said they had been reacting to problems, rather than being proactive.

Several also rose to challenge what they said were false claims by speakers against the fund transfer, including claims that the system has added 36 positions in recent years, and purchased expensive smart boards for science classrooms. They explained that the teachers were state mandated paraprofessional positions; the smartboards were a donation from a local corporation that did not come out of the school budget; and also reminded those who complained about teacher raises, that Beverly's teachers are the lowest paid in the area.

The Salem News reports on the meeting here, and the Citizen here. The News' Heard in Beverly blog adds posts some more quotes from the meeting.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Schools's Out, But Debate Goes On

Even though classes ended today, there is still at least one more week of VERY IMPORTANT meetings left before the FY09 budget is settled.

As we mentioned earlier, there is a public hearing Monday night on the city budget, and with the $680,o0o transfer of funds still very controversial, it is as important as ever that the pro-school community make a strong presence.

The hearing will be divided into two parts, with the first, starting at 7:00, focusing specifically on the Mayor's request to transfer $680,000 to fund the current school budget proposal. This is scheduled for 30 minutes, but may go longer.

Following this is a more general hearing on the overall city budget, including the schools.

Both parts are very important to our cause.

Anyone interested in speaking in favor of the schools, and encouraging City Council members to allow the $680,000 the Mayor has allocated to stay with the schools, can call City Hall today (978-921-6000) and sign up to speak. You can also sign up on Monday if you arrive prior to the beginning of the hearing.

There are already several speakers signed up for the first part, but speakers are especially needed for the second part.

This is also a good time to contact your city councilor, and remind them that come election time you will support those who support education. The ball is truly in their court now, and only they can prevent further drastic cuts NOW.

The meeting will be held at City Council Chambers at City Hall. It will be televised live on BevCam (Comcast Channel 10).

Other meetings for the week are listed at the top of the left-hand column.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

McKeown Spirit Shines Through

Thanks to McKeown PTO President Julie DeSilva for contributing the following post, and to Kris Silverstein for the above photo.

No one knows how to have a good time like TEAM McKeown and Wednesday night was no exception! Staff, families, and students all gathered to celebrate.

Champions Barbeque Team served burgers and dogs and watermelon under a bright, sunny sky. Chris Culkeen spun the tunes and had everyone singing and dancing. At one point the teachers and students had a YMCA dance off, and, because McKeown is a huge Red Sox school, the principal, Dr. Colleen McBride, joined the kids in a rousing rendition of Sweet Caroline.

Of course McKeown has plenty of Celtics fans too and there was an ongoing pickup game with students, staff, and parents going all night long. Everyone was given a TEAM McKeown 2008 keychain as a keepsake, and Dr. McBride gave a short speech praising all who make up the school community and recognizing the PTO executive board, who were presented with flowers from some 5th grade students.

All the groups that make up TEAM McKeown were recognized with a balloon release, which was probably the most emotional part of the evening. There were folks from every school in the city quietly working in the background doing cleanup, setup, and serving dessert. It was a really great way to show the folks from McKeown that they are not alone in this new journey. The last PTO memo of the year sums it up nicely:

We leave behind a building, we take with us
the spirit of TEAM McKeown.

Below: McKeown Staff does the YMCA at the TEAM McKeown Celebration of Excellence and TEAM McKeown kids do the Cotton-Eyed Joe! Hundreds of staff, kids, and family members turned out to celebrate the spirit of TEAM McKeown. Photos by Julie DeSilva.

The Salem News has the story here, and a couple more photos here and here.

Good luck to all TEAM McKeown parents and students. We are sure that we speak for all in the other school communities, when we say that the spirit you have shown over the past three months has been an inspiration to us all. We know you will all be welcomed with open arms in your new schools.

6/21 UPDATE: Saturday's Salem News has a story on McKeown's last day, and there is also on online slideshow. The Beverly Citizen also has a report.

Open Enrollment Deadline Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the last day to apply for open enrollment. Speaking to this, and other issues with regard to the current redistricting plan, Dr. Hayes has posted a new note on the Administration website. Some of it is exherpted below:

On June 12th, the School Committee approved a budget for next year which incorporates a redistricting plan that I submitted to them on the 10th. Final approval of the FY09 budget is in the hands of the City Council who will vote on June 26th. Anticipating an approved budget, the school administration has begun moving forward to plan for next year. Specifically we are assigning teachers and students for next year's classes and making other logistical plans such as moving of furniture and planning changes in bus transportation.

The deadline for submitting a request for Open Enrollment is Friday, June 20th. Applications are in the form of a letter identifying the request and the reasons. Requests for personal conversations or meetings related to the application will not be honored so as to keep the process fair and consistent. Decisions on Open Enrollment requests will not occur until late July and will be made in a manner consistent with the five objectives defined above [these are the same objectives detailed in his previous note]. Given the volume of requests, it is likely that not all requests will be granted.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Talking Trash

There will be a public hearing on the city budget next Monday night, and expect much of the conversation to focus on trash.

Thursday's Beverly Citizen follows the money and explains the nitty gritty of how money that once subsidized trash collection, will instead subsidize the schools. And why "technically, the money isn’t coming from the trash fee."

Technically or not, as several City Councilors mentioned on Tuesday night, the plan has created "a lot of angry constituents," and as we saw on June 3, they may make their views known at the hearing.

If the Council were to pull that funding at this point, as has been discussed by some members, it would surely cause more chaos.

If that were to happen, Dr. Hayes has said that it would more likely result in major program cuts, rather than reconsideration of the 4 school + ECC plan, because of the lack of time to implement a different reconfiguration plan at this late date.

Tracey Armstrong of Yes! for Beverly will be hosting a gathering at her house this Thursday night at 7:30 to discuss the school communities' strategy for the hearing. All are welcome. Please contact Tracey for more information.

If you'd like to contact your City Councilor, here is their contact information.

Monday's hearing will be held at City Council chambers at City Hall, starting at 7:00 pm. It will be televised live by BevCam.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hayes Grilled by Council

In another wild session at City Hall, Dr. Hayes presented the approved school budget to the City Council, and then was subjected to over an hour of questioning on all aspects of the plan, and the convoluted process that gave rise to it.

First, a few new points or clarifications in his initial presentation:

The approved plan eliminates 23.3 full time positions at the elementary level (including teachers, and other administrators) as a result of closing McKeown. One elementary instrumental music position is also eliminated, but Hayes says it shouldn't result in any loss of program, as High School and Briscoe instructors can be utilized for added coverage.

In addition, 4.7 teaching positions and 2.5 SPED positions will be eliminated at the high school, and Latin will no longer be offered as a language.

On to the questioning by the Councilors:

Council President Tim Flaherty worried about some of the revenue projections in the plan, specifically the full-day kindergarten and sports fee projections if parents opt out, rather than paying the higher fee. Councilor Maureen Troubetaris later continued this line of questioning, saying she had heard of many people dropping sports because of the increasing cost. Hayes confirmed that football registration was down considerably from the previous year.

"If you've overestimated revenue, you have a big problem." Troubetaris stated.

Several councilors also complained about the unfairness of the three-tiered fee for sports, and the lack of a family cap on the costs.

Many Councilors, as well as Dr. Hayes still seem very unsure of the sustainability of the current plan, and talked about the need to reconvene the Long-Range Forecasting Group, and plan for future reconfiguration of the system, whether that be the ECC model as originally proposed, or various other modified elementary and/or middle school models.

Hayes also discussed the current projected class sizes, and indicated that he believes they are "optimal, but not likely where we will be come September," because at this point in the year they account for students who are known to be moving out of the City, but not those that will be moving in to take their place.

He expects class sizes will go up, but said there is some classroom space available, and a contingency of three teaching positions in the budget that he can add over the summer to deal with specific class-size issues. He also said that some specific class size problems can be addressed though open enrollment.

Hayes defended his administration staffing levels against continued suggestions that he cut administration positions, saying that for a district our size "we are at the bottom level of what we should have," and saying a study group recently supported that conclusion.

He placed much of the blame for our current situation on the State and Federal Governments, saying "All across this Commonwealth, there are people having this same conversation." He also pointed to the minimally funded mandates of the Federal No Child Left Behind Act, but said that at the district level, "We are using our money wisely."

One interesting exchange occured when Finance Chairman Don Martin asked Hayes what the figure in the budget for the currently-under-negotiation union contracts was, and Hayes said he couldn't say because it was an active negotiation. Martin then asked to take a brief recess, and returned to press Hayes further on the subject. From what we have been told, Hayes is not legally allowed to disclose this figure during a contract negotiation.

Councilor Wes Slate, later stated that he took exception to Martin's comments to Dr. Hayes about releasing figures about an ongoing budget negotiation.

Speaking on the specifics of redistricting, and open enrollment, Slate later asked Hayes if the current redistricting map is final, or if it would be adjusted further, to which Hayes responded "To me, the map stands."

Hayes stated that he has moved all current open enrollment students back to their home schools, and anyone interested would have to reapply. He said they would aim to have all open enrollment decisions made by the end of July, but that it was "doubtful that every open enrollment request will be honored."

The subject of the $680,000 in savings from recycling that Mayor Scanlon provided as a revenue source for the 5-school model was also a much-discussed subject. John Burke stated that he had "a lot of angry constituents" and that the way the money was offered, "may be a disincentive for people to recycle."

Troubetaris also stated that they have been under extreme pressure to give back at least some of the recycling savings to citizens.

Flaherty asked what would happen if the Council denies the $680,000 transfer, and asked Hayes if they would return to the 4-school plan. Hayes stated that he hoped that wouldn't happen, but that it would be the School Committee's decision what to do. He speculated that at this point they might opt to make $680,000 worth of cuts, rather than starting a new restructuring plan, which would be extremely difficult to implement at this late date. Those cuts would be on the order of the ones Hayes initially outlined as a nuclear option (cutting athletics, music, art, and/or library)

School Committee President Annemarie Cesa then took the podium, and walked the Councilors through that convoluted process that got them to this point: from the initial requirement to live within the Mayor's first budget figure that led the Superintendent to the 4-school plus ECC model; to the Mayor's last minute plan, and offer of the trash fee money only in support of the 5-school plan.

School Committee member David Manzi then stood up and stated "The 5-school plan was the Mayor's Plan" and that the Mayor's vote was the deciding vote both in killing the 4-school plan, and in approving the 5-school plan. (the 4-school plan lost by a vote of 4-3, and while the 5-school plan passed by a vote of 5-2, it's pretty clear that the 5th voter, Jim Latter, wouldn't have voted for it, had the 4-school plan not been voted down previously.)

Councilor Pat Grimes also supported the Committee members' view of the process stating that the "past few months have been chaos, and not the way government should work."

Next known date on the Calendar is the public hearing on the budget next Monday night. All other meeting dates are listed at the top of the left hand column, and will be updated as we get new information.

6/17 UPDATE: The Salem News reports on the meeting today, saying the "'chaos' isn't over yet."

The News also added more details in two blog posts later today, here and here.

Council Meeting on Budget Tonight

Dr. Hayes will present the approved school budget (see post below) to the City Council tonight and answer their questions about it.

The meeting will start at 6:00 in City Council chambers at City Hall, and will be televised by BevCam (Comcast Channel 10). It will be followed by a regular Council meeting.

Other upcoming meetings, as currently scheduled, include a public hearing on the full city budget on Monday, June 23rd at 7:00 pm; Council deliberation and subcommittee votes on June 25th; and the full City Council vote on the complete city budget on Thursday, June 26th.

All of these meetings occur at Council Chambers at City Hall. We will have more details on the agenda for all these meetings later, and all are subject to change.

There have been reports in the press (Boston Globe) that the Council will vote tonight on the Mayor's request to transfer $680,000 from the general fund to the schools (instead of to the trash account) to fund the 5-school model. From what we have learned, that does not appear likely, as any vote would have to come after the public hearing next Monday.

There also seems to be a debate brewing as to whether City Council approval is needed on this transfer at all. More about the procedure for approval will likely discussed tonight.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

5-School Budget Approved

Barring any action from the City Council, the 5-school model will be the one that is implemented for this September.

The School Committee voted tonight to approve a budget based on the plan that closes only McKeown, and redistricts elementary school students in the five remaining schools.

Dr. Hayes opened the meeting by presenting a modified version of the 4-school plan, and made some comparisons between it, and the 5-school plan. The 4-school model, he said, eliminates 12 teachers vs five in the 5-school plan, saves $900,000 more, and is therefore more sustainable. Hayes also said it makes better use of available classroom space.

There was discussion of enrollment projections, with Hayes saying that since May there has been a decline in enrollment of 133 students, but noting that enrollment projections generally go back up during the summer, as new families move to the city and register for school.

The talk then moved to the specifics of the 5-school redistricting plan. Annmarie Cesa stated that they all had hoped the redistricting "wouldn't be to this level of disruption."

Paul Manzo took issue with the decision to move more of the Montserrat neighborhood near Cove School to Hannah. Dr. Hayes has said he made this move because the previous iteration of the plan had far too many students at Cove, and too high an F&R population at Hannah. This move solved both issues, albeit by moving some children that live in close proximity to Cove over to Hannah.

Mayor Scanlon urged Dr. Hayes to find a way to allow children who live within 1/4 mile to attend their neighborhood school.

There was considerable talk about open enrollment. In the 5-school redistricting plan, Hayes has kept open enrollment students at their current school. Karen Fogarty suggested all students who open enroll be returned to their home school, and suggested that priority be given to students who have been displaced from their neighborhood school, and especially to 5th graders who will be moving again to Briscoe the following year.

On to the votes:

Jim Latter made a motion early on for the Committee to reconsider its recommendation of the 5-school plan. He passed out a handout showing the increasing percent of city revenue going to the schools, and said that it is time to make the cuts now, noting that once we start assuming debt from the high school it will be even tougher.

The committee then voted on his motion. A YES vote would have tabled the 5-school plan. David Manzi and Annemarie Cesa joined Latter in voting YES, but with the other four members voting NO, the motion was defeated.

In the end, despite some misgivings about sustainability and redistricting issues, the Committee voted to approve the final school budget based on the 5-school plan. It passed by a vote of 6-1, with only Latter voting NO.

Cesa closed the meeting with a statement thanking the community for the level of respect shown during this process and saying that she appreciated everyone's hard work.

Dr. Hayes will present the approved budget to the City Council on Monday night.

Thanks to Kris Silverstein, Caryn Gallagher, and Andi Freedman for contributing to this report.

6/13 UPDATE: Today's Salem News reports on the meeting and the end of a "nearly three-month ordeal." The Citizen also has a report.

More 5-School Stats

One more document has been posted today on the School Administration site, that includes an analysis of class sizes and free & reduced population. All these numbers relate to the redistricting plan that Dr. Hayes presented Tuesday night, and we posted yesterday.

The document also shows the redistricted in and out numbers what we mentioned in an earlier post. We would still like to hear the explanation for Cove showing a net gain of zero, while all other schools average 50 more students. We're guessing it might have something to do with the large number of preschool classes at Cove, which don't seem to be reflected in the in and out numbers. But that's just a guess.

UPDATE: Dr. Hayes explains the Cove In and Out numbers this way: In his previous version, he had too many kids at Cove, and too high an F&R percentage at Hannah. By moving one bordering neighborhood from Cove to Hannah, he solved both problems.

Early Meeting Reminder

Just a reminder that tonight's School Committee meeting will start at 5:00 at the Memorial Building.

The Committee will further discuss the details of the 5-school plan, and recent redistricting documents that were released by Dr. Hayes.

Committee member Jim Latter has also stated that he will "ask the committee to reconsider" its initial vote approving the 5-school plan.

The Committee plans to vote on a budget based on one of the plans, which will then be presented to the City Council by Dr. Hayes on Monday night.

Also a request. Many readers of this blog have come to expect a post-meeting report. We plan to do so tonight as well, but will not be able to attend personally. If you plan to attend, and would like to send your report, or impressions of what went on, please
email it to us immediately following the meeting, and we will attempt to prepare a consensus report of what went on.

PILOT Fighters Wanted

As we mentioned on Tuesday, City Councilor Judith Cronin is forming an ad-hoc committee to study PILOTs (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) as a way to help with the city budget issues.

PILOTs are a way for non-profit institutions such as Endicott College, which are not subject to property taxes, to help in the funding of their local community.

The Council is looking for citizen members to join Council members Cronin, and Wesley Slate.

Anyone interested in serving on the committee should send a letter of interest by June 20 to the Office of the City Clerk, 191 Cabot St., Beverly, MA, Attn: Judith Cronin

The committee will be formed by June 30 and will report back to the City Council and the mayor by Feb. 1, 2009.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Redistricting Plan Posted

Dr Hayes has posted the documents for the 5-school plan that were presented to the school committee last night.

There are three documents, a redistricting map, a street by street directory, and a budget worksheet. The above links will take you to the documents, and we will also add to the list of city documents in the left hand column. The map is larger, but less clear than what was published in both newpapers today, but the street directory will tell you what you need to know. You can also click on the map above for a larger view.

Dr. Hayes also includes this introductory note on the website, that further explains each document:

On Tuesday, June 10th, I presented to the School Committee a plan for redistricting the City's elementary schools. The School Committee recently approved a plan to close the McKeown Elementary School and use the five remaining elementary schools for students in grades PreK through 5. That plan requires a redistricting of students to those five schools.

The School Committee sought to achieve several goals through this redistricting.

  • Distribute students in a way which preserves neighborhoods,
  • Achieve class sizes below our stated maximum guidelines,
  • Maintain district and early childhood programs in the schools where they are currently housed,
  • Balance free & reduced lunch percentages across the five elementary schools within the 20-29% range, and
  • Minimize additional transportation.

The recommended plan, referred to as Version 3.13, achieves these goals. Documents presented to the School Committee include: a street directory which lists all Beverly streets and the elementary school to which residents are assigned; a map which shows the school assignment areas for the five schools; and a budget worksheet that corresponds to version 3.13.

The School Committee will next meet to consider this topic at a Meeting of the Whole scheduled for Thursday, June 12th, at 5 PM at the Memorial Building.

As always, if you have any questions about our schools, please do not hesitate to contact a building principal or central office administrator.

To contact the Superintendent's Office, you may call 978-921-6100 or email me at jim.hayes@beverlyschools.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Jim Hayes
Superintendent of Schools

Ins and Outs

We are still awaiting a complete copy of last night's handouts, but we got our hands on this one stat of kids districted in, and kids districted out of all the schools. According to this, Cove had no net gain of students, while the other schools averaged about 50 additional students each.

  • COVE - 58 in, 58 out (NO NET GAIN)
  • CENTERVILLE - 51 in, 1 out (50 ADDED)
  • HANNAH - 88 in, 35 out (53 ADDED)
  • AYERS - 120 in, 65 out (55 ADDED)
  • NORTH BEVERLY - 95 in, 42 out (53 ADDED)
Hopefully the full handout will clarify.

UPDATE: The Citizen has also just posted it's report on the meeting with a slightly larger version of the map.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

You Say You Want a Resolution?

Tonight's School Committee meeting featured more discussion on the pros and cons of both the 4+1, and the 5-school plans. But the meeting adjourned with no resolution in sight, and with a seeming split between those who want to go forward with the 5-school plan, and those who want to revisit the Superintendent's plan.

Although members came prepared to make further cuts, Dr. Hayes announced that he was able to close the remaining deficit on the 5-school plan with $100,000 from a reserve account and $239,000 from health care savings.

He then displayed two variations of redistricting plans for the 5-school model and handed out some specs based on these plans.

There were a few positives:

  • Class sizes seemed considerably improved from the 4-school numbers (Hayes said there had been an enrollment drop of 100 students from the early budget documents, which was one contributing factor.)
  • McKeown only gets split between Ayers and North Beverly, rather than between 4 schools.
  • Free & reduced numbers seem more balanced than in early incarnations of this plan.

But the biggest negative was still the question of sustainability, and, as at the City Council meeting Monday night, much of the discussion centered around this. Mayor Scanlon again was careful to say that he believed that the $680,000 from the trash account was sustainable, but would not comment any further on the overall sustainability of the plan.

Most Committee members seem convinced that if this plan is put through, even with some of the initial benefits over the 4-school plan, that we will all be back in one or two years with another major deficit, and again be looking to close another school. The simple fact, they point out, is that this plan contains "nearly $1 million more in ongoing costs than the 4-school plan"

Another concern was that the redistricting would affect all the schools to a greater degree than initially expected. Jim Latter was most upset by this, as his Ward (3) seemed to be particularly hard hit by the redistricting. Letter complained: "My kids are taking it on the chin."

Latter asked more than once "Is there any inclination to change back to the 4-school plan?"

While there was considerable debate about the original plan, his question was not met with any concrete answer. Some seemed like they would reconsider it, were it not for the larger class sizes, and David Manzi stated "There is nothing stopping the Mayor from putting the money into the 4-school plan"

Scanlon again stated his opposition to the 4-school plan.

As the meeting ended there still didn't seem to be any clear indication of which way the Committee is leaning.

The next meeting is scheduled for 5:00 Thursday night, we assume at Memorial. Will confirm as soon as we know for sure.

We also hope to be able to post the latest redistricting plans and other documents from this meeting some time tomorrow, and will post the press coverage of the meeting in the morning

6/11 UPDATE: Wednesday's Salem News has more specifics of the five school plan and a small reproduction of Dr. Hayes' favored zoning map here. They also quote from Dr. Hayes statement that he read after presenting the plan:

"I want to go on the record, however, of expressing my concern for the direction we are taking," Hayes said last night. "I believe that in one or two years, we will again be faced with a major shortfall, and an early childhood center concept will be the only reasonable solution.

"Obviously I preferred taking the two steps at once this year. Our revenue will not keep pace with our expenditures.

The paper also has a post-meeting quote from Jim Latter, where he definitively says he will move to ask the Committee to reconsider its previous vote on Thursday.

"I regret supporting the five-school plan and intend to ask the committee to reconsider this on Thursday," [Latter] said.

We hope to have Dr. Hayes' full statement, as well as the redistricting map and specifics posted later today.

The Citizen's report on the meeting is here.

School Committee Meeting Tonight

Sorry for the late notice. We just got confirmation on this.

There will be a school committee meeting tonight at 7:00 pm at Memorial to discuss the budget, redistricting, further cuts, and possibly vote.

Details are sketchy, but we hear that the committee has been asked to come with $300-$500 in suggested cuts to balance the budget. Dr. Hayes may be presenting a redistricting plan.

Monday, June 16 – Dr. Hayes will present school budget to City Council

Monday, June 23 – Public Hearing on City Budget (City Council Meeting) Public can speak.

More details on these meetings to come.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Council to Study PILOTs

One topic of conversation during the Override debate was the large amount of property in Beverly that is owned by non-profits, and therefore by law not subject to city real estate taxes. Endicott College, particularly, owns hundreds of acres of prime real estate, on which it pays no taxes.

Both sides of the override debate brought up and support PILOTs (payments-in-lieu of taxes), which are voluntary payments to the city by non-profits.

City Councilor Judith Cronin says it’s time to develop a plan to collect payments from tax-exempt property owners, and wants a committee formed by the end of the month to begin to examine PILOTs and SILOTs (services–in-lieu of taxes).

Tax-exempt properties in Beverly have a total value of $415 million, Cronin said, which is 6 percent of the total value of all non city-owned land and buildings.

She said she decided to bring forward the proposal after seeing the interest and enthusiasm for it during the override debate, and said that the idea had been “allowed to languish without adequate resolution” since a committee last took on the issue in 2003.

Mayor Scanlon spoke last week of of an agreement under which Endicott College will donate $110,000 per year to the city over the next three years. The college will also continue to donate $40,000 per year to the schools, and has agreed to pay real estate taxes on a recently acquired property on Hale Street.

Support Those who Support Education

Kathy Whitehair, a Cove and Briscoe parent who has been active in the override and budget debate has sent us this letter. It is a call to action to stay involved, and to support those in state and local government, who have been most supportive of education.

Many, many thanks for all the time, efforts and financial donations given on behalf of retaining the highest quality of education in our great city of Beverly. While the result of the city-wide vote was not in the favor of override, let us not forget that almost 4,000 citizens heard the cry for Beverly to stand as a community which prioritizes education. With this future statement of commitment to education, I believe that Beverly will be the complete package: coast, parks, recreation, city services, cultural diversity, ethnic restaurants, arts, and, yes, dare I say it, highest quality education!

The task now? Support those who support education! We are almost 4,000 strong and will grow as we better articulate the true financial picture, and frankly, as the city feels the "pain" more.

So, stay tuned, stay committed and keep talking! Attend the meetings and call your city council and school committee representatives. Let them know that you are watching for their stance re: education and that you'll not forget come election time.

For starters, as most of us know, our State Representative Mary Grant is an outstanding supporter of education, and was a terrific and very public supporter of Yes! For Beverly.

Mary is kicking-off her re-election campaign this Wednesday, June 11 at the Rose Garden in Lynch Park from 5:30-7:30. Although Mary is running unopposed, it is very important for education advocates to demonstrate their support for Mary.

Please consider attending this event as I am, bring the family, and please, pass the word to any pro-education friends in Beverly.

Rain location: Cove Community Center.

All are welcome!

Thank you,
Kathy Whitehair

Sunday, June 8, 2008

More Cuts Coming

According to today's Boston Globe, there is still about a $450,000 shortfall, based on the most recent projections, on the 5-school plan.

School Committee President Annemarie Cesa tells the Globe "There's going to be additional cuts."

Dr. Hayes was originally slated to discuss the budget with the City Council tomorrow night, but that meeting has been moved to next Monday, June 16th, to allow the School Committee more time to work out the details, and make any further cuts that are necessary.

The Globe story quotes Dr. Hayes as saying "It's devastating on a variety of levels; In the long run, we face a problem that is not erased by this; the problem is our expenses are rising faster than our revenues."

There is still considerable talk in the press about the Superintendent's original 4+2 plan, suggesting that plan is still considered an active option by some, even though it was voted down by the School Committee.

In a Beverly Citizen story posted Friday afternoon, City Council President Tim Flaherty said the council will be weighing the implications of both plans.

School Committee member James Latter, who favored the original plan, but voted in favor of both plans, suggested at the time that he did so in part because "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."

Latter has since said he does not consider the 5-school plan sustainable beyond next year.

We are awaiting word on what School Committee meetings will take place this week.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Proposed FY09 Budget Online

The proposed FY09 City Budget that Mayor Scanlon presented Thursday night has been posted on the city's website. We will also add the link to the City Documents section on the left.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Hayes to Face Council

Dr. Hayes will face the City Council on Monday night to answer questions about the school budget. The meeting will be held in City Council Chambers at City Hall beginning at 7:45 pm, and will be shown live on BevCam, as will all upcoming department budget meetings.

Last night, Mayor Scanlon presented his budget, and was questioned in broad terms about the sustainability of his plan for the schools.

Much of the debate between the Mayor and the Councilors centered around that concept of sustainability, and it didn't seem like much was settled. In response to several questions about the budget, Scanlon said "I'm not suggesting we have solved all the school problems, or that it is necessarily sustainable." and later added "there are real questions with regard to the sustainability of the school department." But in a direct question from John Burke as to whether the 5-school model was sustainable, Scanlon said "Yes."

The difference seems to be that the plan might be sustainable at the 3-3.5% growth the Mayor has repeatedly said the schools must hold to. But as Counilor Maureen Troubetaris and others pointed out, that has proven to be a near impossibility with the rapidly rising cost of utilities, health care, and many other items in the budget.

Hayes will no doubt face more specific questions on Monday night. If things continue as they have so far, the Council will likely have to sort out whose numbers to believe. Scanlon several times last night talked of how Hayes' numbers for the 5-school plan keep changing. Hayes has explained this before by noting that they aren't changing, they are evolving from a hypothetical to a real plan.

The Superintendent and the School Committee are said to be working hard to massage the redistricting plans to even out class sizes, as well as balance the free & reduced population better than what was shown in the Citizen report earlier this week.

In addition to Monday's City Council meeting, there is a School Committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday, June 18th at 7:00 pm. Expect that others will be added before that date.

We will update the schedule as we hear of new meeting dates. We will also post the city budget when it becomes available online.

4:30 pm UPDATE: The Beverly Citizen has posted their writeup of last night's meeting. In it are a few new quotes from Council President Tim Flaherty worth highlighting that again indicate that the 4+2 plan, or some variation of it is still on the table:

Flaherty said the Council will be weighing the implications of two different school configuration plans. One would have five elementary schools and an alternative secondary school. The other plan calls for four elementary schools, an early childhood center and the alternative secondary school.

“There are so many other compelling interests going forward, how long can you still give the $680,000? The money is there, it’s just that can we continue it?” said Flaherty. “We can’t get involved in the details, by law, of what plan the School Committee chooses. We can get involved in their overall budget and if we can afford it and that’s an issue we need to take a look at. Whether it’s four and two or five and one and which one can we afford in the long run.”

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Cove's Future Still Uncertain

According to reports in both the Salem News and Beverly Citizen, the City Council still needs to weigh in on the financial aspects of Mayor Scanlon's 5-school plan, and some of them have doubts about its sustainability.

The News report states that "The City Council has the final say on the city's budget, including the school budget, and councilors are asking for more details on the mayor's plan before they give their approval."

The report says that "City Councilor Kevin Hobin filed an order this week asking the mayor to come before councilors and spell out the 'sustainability' of his plan."

Council President Tim Flaherty is also worried about the plan's sustainability, and says "I don't think anybody wants to be in a situation where we're closing the Cove School a year from now."

School Committee member Jim Latter, who voted in favor of both plans, has since said that after further study of the Mayor's plan, he does not believe it is sustainable beyond next year.

There is an ever-changing cost associated with the plan, ranging from the original $680,000 the Mayor offered to cover through savings from the trash account, up to $1 million. The latter figure is based on Dr. Hayes estimates after working out some real redistricting plans that didn't show the savings that the Mayor's "hypothetical" plan did.

Scanlon's offer of further money keeps fluctuating also. He initially offered the $680,o00 from the trash account when he presented his plan on May 14th. Last week, it was reported that Scanlon offered another $100,000 dollars to make up some of the difference, if the budgeted numbers don't cover the actual cost.

Today's story says "Scanlon said he could also provide up to $200,000 this year to cover any difference in their numbers* (see update below), as well as another $100,000 to make up for any 'shaky estimates.' The $300,000 would come from the city's 'reserved for unforeseen' account, he said."

This perception of money always being "found" at the last minute certainly played into the overwhelming defeat of the override on Tuesday.

Mayor Scanlon is scheduled to address the City Council and unveil the fiscal 2009 city budget at 7 p.m. tonight in City Council chambers. The City Council’s finance and property subcommittee will then spend the rest of June reviewing the budget, department by department, before a public hearing that is scheduled for June 23 and a final vote on June 26.

There is another issue of concern that we mentioned in an update Tuesday night. Many of you may have missed because it was buried in the news of the override defeat.

In a story posted Tuesday afternoon, the Citizen presented some new class size numbers based on the early redistricting plans for the 5-school plan. These numbers were slightly more favorable than ones we've seen in the past, but there was a large disparity in the free & reduced population numbers (the measure the city uses to determine children "at risk"). The percentages range from a low of 17.75% at Cove to a whopping 34.92% at Hannah, which is equal to the current number at North Beverly that has raised so much concern there.

We have asked Dr. Hayes if he could provide more details on these numbers, because they have not been published elsewhere.

UPDATE: *Mayor Scanlon explained this additional $200,000 tonight as one time money to pay for unemployment and moving costs for closing McKeown.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

photo courtesy of Joanna Murphy Scott

Statement from Yes! for Beverly

Dear Yes! For Beverly Supporters,

As we have said from the beginning of this effort, we all wanted to wake-up on June 4th knowing we had done everything we possibly could to maintain quality education in Beverly. Today, we can say proudly that we did just that.

Nearly 4,000 people in Beverly heard our message, shared our commitment to quality education, and voted Yes! on a historic ballot question in this city. We should be proud of this accomplishment.

People came to this campaign as individuals, and as our journey went on, became a team. Today, we are part of a movement that is bigger than any one of us. We are a movement of citizens who want change, and we will continue to work together for just that.

At this moment, more than ever, we need to stand together. Our journey is not over. We need to look ahead to next year. From the beginning, we have discussed appropriate citizen involvement and the need for meaningful dialogue with our leaders. Although the override did not pass, we still need new revenue. We continue to support responsible cuts in spending. Everyone who shares a commitment to quality education and quality of life in our community must remain active, working with our Mayor, our City Council and School Committee leaders. We will continue to make a difference.

As they say after a great game, we left it all on the field. In between the routine of our daily lives, our jobs, our churches and temples, our families, our community activities, we came together and we DID make a difference.

We are so proud of the community spirit here in Beverly. It was an honor to work with all of you. Now, we look forward, and work together for change.

With deepest gratitude,
Tracey Armstrong and Joan Sullivan
Yes! For Beverly

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

"Our Journey is Not Over"

Some excerpts from Joan and Tracey's speech to Yes! for Beverly supporters tonight:
True teamwork is rare. And when you experience it, you know it. It is exhilarating.

Each of us as individuals, many who had never before met, came together. We are a group of people with different backgrounds and experiences, all equal in our commitment to protect the quality of education and life in this community. We worked together, and together, we DID make a difference.

We did not win the majority of votes tonight – but in many ways, we had already won before the votes were counted.

As we stand here tonight as a team, I will tell you, we have made history. Never before had such a ballot question been put to Beverly voters – and you were all part of this – you gave people in this community a voice.

Somewhere along this journey together, what started as a campaign became a movement. It wasn’t about one person, one school, one teacher, one meeting, one sign – it was bigger than all of that. It was about our community, our quality of life and our civic responsibility.

At this moment, more than ever, we need to stand together. Our journey is not over. We need to look ahead to next year. From the beginning, we have discussed appropriate citizen involvement – a meaningful dialogue with our leaders. We support responsible cuts in spending and Yes! For Beverly must remain active with our School Committee and City Council leaders to determine a sustainable solution. We will continue to make a difference.

Override Fails

Tracey Armstrong and Joan Sullivan just announced to the crowd gathered at the Cove Community Center that the override had been defeated.

The numbers were not close, with 6,686 voting NO, and only 3,846 voting YES. In percentage terms that translates to a 37% t0 63% margin. Pretty much a landslide. Every precinct in the city voted NO.

Tracy and Joan spoke eloquently tonight about how we've changed Beverly for the better — we created a civil dialogue about important issues where none existed before. We hope to get a copy of their speech to post soon, because we couldn't do it justice at this point.

Here are the final vote totals by precinct:

  • W1P1: Yes: 196; No: 521
  • W1P2: Yes: 251; No: 761
  • W2P1: Yes: 145; No: 353
  • W2P2: Yes: 283; No: 360
  • W3P1: Yes: 124; No: 324
  • W3P2: Yes: 309; No: 526
  • W4P1: Yes: 486; No: 559
  • W4P2: Yes: 520; No: 623
  • W5P1: Yes: 351; No: 645
  • W5P2: Yes: 319; No: 643
  • W6P1: Yes: 379; No: 537
  • W6P2: Yes: 483; No: 834
Total: Yes: 3846; No: 6686

Here are the initial writeups from the News and Citizen.

UPDATE: If you have the stomach for it, the Citizen posted some new numbers this afternoon on class sizes, free & reduced population, and new deficit with the current 5-school plan. The numbers seem most alarming for Hannah, which sees its free & reduced population soar to 34.92%.

6/4 UPDATE: The Salem News' Wednesday morning story is here and the Citizen's is here.

Voters turn out; Shirts turn in

A few bits of information that have been reported on the Salem News Heard in Beverly Blog:

There were several incidents involving shirts this morning.

Dr. Hayes has confirmed that students wearing YES shirts at the five elementary schools that serve as polling places, have been instructed to turn the shirts inside out.

Hayes said a poll worker at the Cove notified school officials that the law prohibits political campaigning within 150 feet of a polling place.

“I talked to the principal (Karla Pressman) and decided the best thing was for the kids to turn it inside out and use it as a teachable moment,” Hayes said. “To some people it may seem minor and inconsequential, but in reality there’s a law.”

Also, Yes! for Beverly leader Tracey Armstrong was not allowed to vote while wearing a YES shirt at the Cove, and a similar incident occurred this morning at North Beverly.

The blog also reports that turnout was strong in early morning voting at the Cove with 14 percent of voters having voted by 10 am. That's on a pace of at least a 50% turnout, according to the News.

Let the People Decide

It's been just over two months since the Superintendent first announced his plan to reconfigure the elementary schools in a bid to close a $2.7 million budget gap. In that time, parents and other concerned citizens from all across the city have come together in the spirit of unity to study the budget in detail, push our city leaders to look at all possible alternatives, and get Beverly's first ever override on the ballot.

Tonight, we will find out if we have persuaded enough of our fellow citizens of the importance of the cause to pass the override, and give us all the time, and additional resources necessary to maintain quality schools in Beverly.

If you are still undecided, you will find nearly every budget document, press report, and meeting recap somewhere on this site, and a host of statistics and powerful arguments in support of the override on Yes! for Beverly's website.

Please get out and vote early, and make sure everyone you know gets out and votes. Call and remind anyone you know who might forget. This is expected to be a very close election. It could go either way. Remember, the recent override election in Hamilton passed by only 37 votes.

Polls open at 7:00 am and close at 8:00 pm

We'll be "live blogging" from the Cove Community Center event tonight, and will post any election results as we get them. So keep checking the site throughout the night.

A couple of reminders from Yes! for Beverly:

Volunteers are still needed to hold signs at all the polling places. If you have any extra time after you vote, go grab a sign, and help make that final push of visibility that may sway any remaining undecideds.

All volunteers and supporters are encouraged to attend tonight's Election Night Gathering starting at 7:00 at the Cove Community Center.

12:40 pm UPDATE: BevCam (Comcast Channel 10) will post the election result numbers as they come in tonight, starting at 7:45.

Also, Yes! for Beverly could use a few volunteers with signs to go to the commuter rail stations for evening rush hour to remind commuters to vote. The evening rush of trains starts at about 4:30. Here's the schedule.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

Yes! for Beverly is looking for more volunteers to help hold signs at polling places tomorrow. If you can help, drop by any of these locations on Tuesday, June 3 between 7am-8pm. Even 30 minutes would be a help to the Yes! Team.

  • W1: Ayers Ryal-Side
  • W2: Downtown Public Library
  • W3: McKeown
  • W4P1: Senior Center
  • W4P2: Cove School
  • W5P1: 2nd Congregational Church
  • W5P2: North Beverly
  • W6: Centerville School

And just a reminder that all volunteers and supporters are invited to attend tomorrow night's Election Night Gathering at 7:00 at the Cove Community Center.

The Ballot Question

Today's Salem News runs down all the final details of tomorrows election, from the offical text of the question, to the bottom line of what a YES or NO vote does. They also list the polling places.

The ballot question reads as follows:
Shall the City of Beverly be allowed to assess an additional $2,500,000.00 in real estate and personal property taxes for the purposes of funding the operating budget of the Beverly Public Schools for which the monies from this assessment will be used for the fiscal year beginning July first, two thousand eight.

The News also runs it's endorsement editorial on the election, but after commending those elected officials who took a position on the override, decides to stay neutral themselves.

There is also a new batch of letters (some are linked individually in the Editorial section on the left) in support, and at least one letter by vocal NO supporter (and former Mayoral candidate) Patrick Lucci that may do more to hurt public opinion of the NO side than anything the YES side could say.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Election Night Event

YES! For Beverly invites all supporters to attend an election night gathering at the Cove Community Center and wait together until the results are in.

Here are the details:

After you vote YES! on June 3
Please Join Yes! for Beverly for an Election Night Gathering
7:00pm – Until the Votes are Counted
Cove Community Center
19 East Corning Street

Music provided by Cove dad & BHS grad Paul Carr!
Enjoy munchies and pizza for the kids!

Please bring a snack or dessert to share and your best Beverly spirit!

We hope to see you at this community event!

You can print out an invitation here.