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 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.

No comments: