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.

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.