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.

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.”

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