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, November 19, 2009

High School Progressing

If you are interested in following the progess of the high school, the Superintendent's office is maintaining a great photo archive on Picasa that follows the progress of both the exterior and interior construction with monthly updates. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Superintendent Search Focus Groups

The following notice is from School Commitee Vice-President Maria Decker:

The search for a new superintendent of schools is well underway. A very important part of the process is to solicit community input about the attributes, experiences, and desired goals for a new superintendent. This will be of valuable assistance to the School Committee and the Screening Committee as they select and interview the candidates.

Dr. Ken DeBenedictis, a search consultant with the New England School Development Council (NESDEC) will meet with interested staff, parents, and community members in focus groups. Participation in focus groups will require between 1 and 1 1/2 hours. The date and time is listed below. Everyone is welcome to attend and to participate in that meeting. No previous sign-up is required. Each person's contribution to the group is very important to the process.

Three Parent/Community Focus Groups will be held: on Thursday, December 3rd at 10:00am at the Senior Center on Colon Street; on Saturday, December 5th at 10 am in the Hannah School cafeteria; and on Saturday, December 5th at 2pm at the Hannah School cafeteria.

(Two Faculty/Staff Focus Groups will be held: on Tuesday, December 1st at 3:15pm in the Briscoe cafe and on Thursday, December 3rd at 2:30pm at the Senior Center on Colon Street.)

Focus groups are an important part of the search process because they are designed to obtain the input of teachers, support staff, administrators, parents and community members about the attributes, experience, and knowledge they believe the new superintendent should possess. The focus groups also provide an opportunity for participants to identify immediate tasks on which the new superintendent should concentrate.

The Beverly School Committee wants and values your opinions. We encourage you to attend and hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to participate.

11/19 UPDATE: The Schoo0l Committee is also looking for citizen volunteers to serve on the Finance and Facilities Committee and the Curriculum, Instruction and Student Life Committee.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


It was a great night for SBS favored candidates, as our picks won every race across the city, and the field of candidates put up by Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility (CFR) went down to resounding defeat.

Mayor Scanlon soundly defeated challenger John Burke by a margin of 60% to 40% in what some expected to be a closer race.

Former State Rep. Mike Cahill won the City Council Presidency by 76 votes over runner-up Paul Guanci who, along with Pat Grimes, won at-large seats on the Council. CFR leader Elliot Margolis managed only 24% of the vote citywide.

In the Ward 4 School Committee race Karen Fogarty trounced challenger Gail Burke (the other leader of CFR) by a margin of 65% to 35%.

And in the three contested ward Council races, incumbents Kevin Hobin and Judith Cronin, along with former School Committee member James Latter all won their races.

Congratulations to all on their victories.

The Salem News has all the final numbers here.

11/4 UPDATE: Today's Salem News has a package of stories on the election, including Scanlon's win, Cahill's win, Burke's loss, and the other races.

Get Out and Vote

Today is the day. If you are undecided, there is plenty of information and links in the posts below to help you decide. This is expected to be a very close election, so every vote counts.

Here is a list of polling places.

4:30 UPDATE: The Salem News will be posting election results here, as they come in tonight.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Most Officials Support Scanlon

While most elected officials are off the record on their views in the Mayor's race, it seems that most unofficially support Mayor Scanlon's reelection. Excerpts of a few key endorsements, or near-endorsements follow:

School Committee President Annemarie Cesa, in an email to school advocates yesterday stated:

John Burke and I began our terms in office on the same day in 2004. In the ensuing six years I have attended a myriad number of City Council meetings to make sure that I have had accurate and necessary information so as to make informed decisions for the Beverly Public Schools. How many School Committee meetings has John Burke attended over that time? Not one. ... John Burke says that he supports education in Beverly. He has had 6 years to show any interest, and that hasn't happened. ... When you vote on November 3rd, vote smart and vote for Bill Scanlon.

Ward Two Councilor Wes Slate was the first City Councilor to publicly endorse Scanlon, saying

"Unlike his opponent whom I know well and have served with for these past two years, Mayor Scanlon is a proven leader, someone whose support is City-wide and not focused on pockets of voters in particular areas."

We take Bill Coughlin's A+ rating and Paul Guanci's A rating of the Mayor's performance as endorsements, as well as current City Council President Tim Flaherty's statement in today's Salem News that

voters who don't like Scanlon will have to decide if they want to risk turning over the city to "an inexperienced individual." "A lot will come down to, are people going to make their decision based on who will be the best mayor, or are they making a decision because they don't like Bill's personality?"

While it's easy to look at the archives of this site and find many statements from officials and school advocates critical of Scanlon's style of management, it doesn't seem like any of that is translating into support for Burke. In fact, we have not heard a single endorsement of Burke from any elected city official.

Still, his grassroots support is strong, as a survey of yard signs in the city will show, and as today's Salem News story reports, an upset is clearly possible.

Make sure you get out and vote tomorrow for the future of education in Beverly.

2:00 UPDATE: The Beverly Citizen has just posted its endorsement, also of Mayor Scanlon, saying:

...Scanlon has shown prowess in the financial sector. He has the dogged determination to get projects, such as the new Beverly High School, completed, and he’s not afraid to make less sexy tasks, like tackling the city’s drainage problems, a priority.

John Burke has demonstrated a deep commitment to his constituents and he has a vision for revitalizing the downtown and for preserving Beverly’s remaining open spaces. In addition, Burke is computer savvy and could bring his skills to bear in branding Beverly as a tourist destination to bring in much needed dollars.

We believe financial expertise, however, is the skill the city most needs at this moment, so we are endorsing Bill Scanlon for mayor.

Scanlon has said he wants to see the high school project through and we support him in that. He has shepherded the project along and should see its completion during the next term. ...

Let’s let Scanlon finish the high school. And, then let’s talk about how to build on what he has accomplished and take the city in some new directions.

Also,if you are still undecided, the Salem News has just posted videos of the interviews that BevCam held with both Mayoral candidates.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Candidate Statements

The Beverly Citizen has posted statements from the candidates in all contested School Committee and City Council Races. Below we link to each, and, for the citywide races, include an excerpt that is relevant to each candidates view on the schools. There don't appear to be any statements from the Mayoral candidates posted.

The previous two posts detail the Salem News endorsements, our analysis of the views of the majority of school advocates, and coverage of the Mayor's race.

School Committee Ward 4
Karen Fogarty (SBS pick)
The important work dedicated to the betterment of Beverly Public Schools is ongoing, including: curriculum review; selection of the next Superintendent; transition into the new High School facility; continued integration of technology to enhance learning; and support for initiatives and practices which will keep improving our students’ proficiency in the core content areas. However, these critical responsibilities will take place in the coming months before a back drop of fiscal uncertainty at the State level. The most urgent work will be to contain the impact that any reduction in local aid will have on our School District....

Gail Burke
...Children need critical thinking skills to understand 21st century propaganda, and “politically correct” ideas. Are global warming and the extinction of polar bears facts beyond dispute? Classroom discussions of both sides of these and other controversial issues are essential. Spell check has replaced spelling lessons. Cursive writing is out. Learning multiplication tables is discouraged, and calculators substitute for mastering arithmetic...

City Councilor At-Large
You may vote for three candidates. Top vote getter becomes Council President; next two win seats on the Council. As we stated previously, the majority of the school support seems to be with Grimes and Cahill, although Guanci and Coughlin also have support. Coughlin, however, seems to be playing to the override opponents in this election, and although we have come to accept his views that it is unlikely an override would ever be successful in the future, we are still troubled by his blanket statement that he would NEVER support one, given the ever decreasing amount of state aid the city receives. Because of this and Guanci's positive role in developing the high school project, we believe most support Guanci over Coughlin.

Patricia Grimes (SBS pick)
...There is much that needs to be done, such as completing and paying for the new high school, renovating our middle school, building a new public safety facility, and repairing and maintaining our infrastructure. ...Beverly faces some serious challenges ahead, made worse by a predicted shortfall of $900 million in the state budget, and the already significant cuts in local aid. Our community needs long range financial planning rather than short-term fixes...As a member of the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, I attend frequent meetings in Boston and at the statehouse with elected officials from all over the state, gathering important information that will help us plan Beverly’s future.....

Mike Cahill (SBS pick)
...We need to act. We need leadership from our elected officials, and we need an engaged citizenry that will actively help shape our city’s future direction. With federal and state aid shrinking, and Beverly’s taxpayers already paying what we can, core city services are harder than ever to provide. We need new solutions. As your City Councilor At-Large, I will work to create new revenues by maximizing business investment, whenever this is achievable consistent with the public interest in both our near and long-term quality of life. These new revenues can fund our schools, senior center, veterans’ programs, public safety, and other services...

Paul Guanci
The biggest challenge facing the City of Beverly is how can local elected officials continue to provide adequate services and attend to citizen’s needs while staying within the boundaries of Proposition Two and a Half. State Aid to Beverly this year is over two million dollars less than what the City received in 2001. Our locally elected officials need to connect with our state government and voice our concerns about what we need back in state aid in order to survive. While we all wait for much needed reform to happen, there are things here in Beverly that we can do to help move things slowly forward....

Bill Coughlin

...We cannot even conjecture any 2-1/2 override as I have in public stated “Beverly will never vote in favor of any override and I will never vote for any override”. These words spoken before the special election defeat. Thus we must find other solutions to pare the budget. My political literature is stressing that I lead all candidates by far in innovative ideas which has saved the city multi-millions of dollars. If reelected, my fiscal acumen will be there to continue to find new ways to reduce costs....

Elliott Margolis
Without question, the most important issue facing Beverly is how to pay for the new high school while maintaining the current standard of living. Kathy Griffin, the City Council’s financial advisor has forecasted that by the fiscal year 2013 the deficit between the revenue taken in by the City and the expenses will be well over 7 million dollars. I have proposed a number of solutions to close this gap and will work very hard to accomplish this goal on the council without losing services or employees...

City Councilor Ward 3
James Latter (SBS pick)
James Modugno

City Councilor Ward 4
Kevin Hobin (SBS pick)
George Binns

City Councilor Ward 6
Judith Cronin (SBS pick)
Robert Hames

11/2 UPDATE:

The Citizen has finally decided, at 5:30 the night before the election, and after they already endorsed Mayor Scanlon, to finally post the statements for the Mayoral candidates. They are linked below:

Bill Scanlon (SBS Pick)
John Burke

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Salem News Also Backs Scanlon

Today's Salem News has its endorsements for Beverly's Mayoral and other races. In all but one case, they reach the same judgments as this website did in yesterday's post.

For Mayor, the News says in choosing Mayor Scanlon:

He has overseen the renovation of all but one of the city's schools and...contrary to what his critics, including Burke, maintain, we believe Scanlon when he says the high-school renovations, essential to maintaining the school's accreditation, will be completed without putting undue strain on city spending or borrowing capacity. And we have full confidence he can come up with a plan to finance Beverly's share of the new, state-of-the-art regional vocational school in Danvers.
In the Ward 4 School Committee Race, the News says:

Gail Burke was instrumental in beating back an ill-advised effort to override Proposition 2-1/2 in 2006[sic]. But serving on the School Committee involves more than just saying no, and in her first term as the Ward 4 representative on that body, Karen Fogarty has impressed with her ability to balance the desire of parents for the best education possible with current budget realities. She deserves re-election.

We also agree with the News' judgment on the Ward races, where they endorsed former School Committee member Jim Latter in Ward 3, Kevin Hobin in Ward 4, and Judith Cronin in Ward 6. All have been strong supporters of the schools in the past, and we expect them to continue to be in the future.

The only race on which we differ with the News is on the Councilor-At-Large race. We feel that the city is in need of some new forward-looking vision. To us, the obvious choice to provide those new ideas is Mike Cahill. As we stated in our previous post, Cahill combines strong education credentials with more than ten years experience in elective office as a State Rep. In this new role, he could bring a welcomed outside perspective to the Council.

Both Paul Guanci and Bill Coughlin are worthy candidates with good records on the schools, but Coughlin's blanket statement that he would NEVER support an override for any reason, which he highlights on his campaign literature, makes us wonder if he could truly judge any future situation objectively.

The News, by supporting incumbents exclusively, and not even mentioning Cahill's candidacy, missed the boat on realizing the need to add some new vision to city government.

10/30 UPDATE: We are linking to a letter that was written by Karen Fogarty to answer many of the charges that have been made by Gail Burke. The Salem News declined to post it because there is not enough time for her opponent to respond in print. Should Ms. Burke wish to respond, she is welcome to do so in the comment section below.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Several Candidates Earn Our Support

In next week's elections a few candidates stand above the others in the support they are receiving from most school advocates. Much of this support is the result of their positions in the 2008 budget crisis and the new high school debate.

Mayor's Race
During the height of the 2008 budget crisis, many in the school communities were not the biggest fans of Mayor Scanlon. He refused to take a position on the override, and when he spoke out as being "agnostic" on it, he always seemed to follow that up with a statement subtly against it. In releasing his "secret plan" to save Cove, but not McKeown, at the 11th hour and refusing to give any details beforehand to the Superintendent or School Committee, he infuriated many, and undercut the override drive further.

Still, after the dust cleared, it seemed that he correctly read the mood of the city on the override, and that his plan was, as he originally stated, "painful, but less painful" than the Superintendent's plan. The additional funds he pledged to the schools helped somewhat ease the pain of McKeown's closing and the redistricting, and has so far kept the five elementary school model intact.

The impressive building that is rising on Sohier Rd. is further testament to the the Mayor's support of the schools. Scanlon fought hard to get the high school project approved, was personally involved in its design and development, and worked diligently to get more than half of the project paid for by the state. Scanlon says that seeing the project through to completion is one of his top reasons for seeking reelection to an unprecedented 8th term.

His challenger John Burke, who is receiving strong grassroots support throughout the city based on his record of constituent service and reputation as a vocal critic of Scanlon, stood against the Mayor on both these issues, and overall has not developed a strong record of support for the schools.

He consistently voted against the high school project, even with loss of accreditation staring us in the face. He opposed the 2008 override, and voted against the trash fee which was indirectly the funding source that saved the Cove School.

More recently Burke angered some members of the community for using their 2008 quotes critical of Mayor Scanlon in his campaign literature in a way that suggests they endorsed his candidacy.

Joanna Murphy Scott, a former McKeown parent and Scanlon supporter, whose quote critical of the Mayor's tactics in 2008 was used in Burke's mailer, stated in an email to other school activists: "I find that Burke's pulling of information from that time for his campaign use unsettling. Councilor Burke neither spoke publicly to support the saving of McKeown nor attended any constituent-driven meetings regarding its closure."

Burke has also been dogged by the 2007 censure by his fellow councilors over an anonymous letter that he was found to be the author of. Scanlon's campaign today rolled out the big negative campaign guns by releasing a slick website that details this incident in detail, as well as debunking many of Burke's claims of Scanlon's fiscal negligence.

With the high school project still a long way from completion, Burke's record on school funding issues questionable, and lingering questions about his character and experience for the job, most school advocates feel this would be an exceptionally risky time to take a chance on Burke. We share that view.

School Committee Ward 4
We profiled this race in an earlier post. As we said then, the choice here is clear. Karen Fogarty was actively involved in the budget debate in 2008, worked hard on redistricting issues, publicly stated her support for the override, and says that reviewing curriculum is at the top of her agenda. Having been subject to the redistricting herself, and with a son at Briscoe, she has a personal stake in the success of the school system. Fogarty is also a member of the new Beverly Chapter of Stand for Children (as is Mayor Scanlon, Mike Cahill, Pat Grimes, Kevin Hobin, and Wes Slate).

Gail Burke (no relation to John), who is new to the city, and has no children in the school system, become involved because of the override vote, during which she was a co-leader of the anti-override campaign. She also opposed the high school construction, and most recently has been sparring with the Superintendent's office over MCAS scores, and the math curriculum.

Assistant Superintendent Marie Galinski, responding to Burke's critique in the Beverly Citizen, stated "I take issue with the statement of Burke, who has no children in the public schools nor has she visited any of our schools to comment on the use of data to review curriculum or make changes. She has no first hand knowledge to make this statement. Should she desire to gain more information, I would welcome her visit!"

Fogarty has earned reelection to a second-term, and Burke has not demonstrated any qualifications for the office she seeks.

There are five candidates for Councilor-at-Large. The person with the most votes becomes Council President, and the second and third place finishers win at-large positions on the Council. Of the five, two seem to have the most support from the school advocates we spoke with, with two others having overall favorable records on education.

During the 2008 budget crisis, Pat Grimes stood out as the only councilor to publicly support the override. Like John Burke, she often battles with the Mayor, and during the 2008 budget crisis, called him out on some of his more autocratic moves. But unlike Burke, she most always comes down on the side of education. Of all the sitting at-large councilors, Grimes is supported by most school advocates.

Mike Cahill is not currently on the Council, but his record on education is impressive. He founded the Greater Beverly Education Roundtable, a group of local educators and administrators whose goal is "to enhance the quality of life throughout the Greater Beverly community by enriching educational opportunities for learners of all ages." Cahill, a former teacher, is also no stranger to elective office, having served as State Rep. from Beverly for 11 years. He would bring a welcome outside perspective to City Government.

Of the others, Former Council President Paul Guanci sat out the last two years, so has no record of votes on the most recent school issues, but he was actively involved in the initial development of the new high school, and has consistently supported the project. He has an overall positive record on support of the schools, but many hoped that as a former council president and parent, he would have been more vocal during last year's budget crisis.

Bill Coughlin supported the new high-school, and has generally been supportive of the schools. His current campaign literature states that he has voted for every school building project since 1992, but also states that he is the only candidate who has publicly stated that he will NEVER support an override.

Elliot Margolis, the 5th candidate, has the most disturbing record with regard to education. Along with Gail Burke, he founded Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility in 2008 to campaign against the override. He also led a small group that sought to derail the high school project last fall, and like Burke, has recently been sparring with the Superintendents' office over his interpretation of the MCAS scores. His arguments are almost always based on reducing costs, often using questionable interpretations of statistics, and offering simplistic solutions.

Most of the above candidates have taped interviews for BevCam that will be shown through Tuesday. Bevcam also taped last night's candidate forum in Centerville, and should be showing it between now and the election. Check BevCam's website for schedule.

Most importantly, make sure you get out to the polls next Tuesday, remember 2008, and cast a vote that will keep education in Beverly moving forward.

UPDATE: Today's Salem News has several pieces on the election:

At the end of the debate last night, Scanlon left even his supporters aghast, doing his best Bill Belichick impersonation as he walked off the stage snubbing Burke, who had his hand outstreched for a handshake. Burke no doubt expected and welcomed this response, and not surprisingly, today's front page News article is headlined "Mayoral debate ends with boo". Scanlon showed his mastery of the details of his job throughout the night, but in the end he reminded us again, why he often is such a tough candidate to support.

The News also has a profile of three of the five candidates (the other two will be profiled tomorrow) for Councilor-at-Large, and a Fact-Check piece on the responsibilities of Burke's current job that is well worth a read.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Final Mayoral Debate Tonight

There will be a candidate forum tonight at the Centerville Improvement Society, at 437 Essex St. at 7 pm. This will be the last chance to hear Mayor Scanlon, and challenger John Burke debate the issues, including the schools. As was the case at their last joint appearance, sparks often fly when the two are together.

This is a very important election for the schools, and is expected to be the toughest Mayor Scanlon has faced since he won back his seat from Thomas Crean 6 years ago.

The two were on opposite sides of the two most important recent school issues: the new high school, and the trash fee, which indirectly is the funding source that keeps the Cove School open as an elementary school. Burke opposed both.

The forum will also feature the 5 candidates for the Councilor at Large positions, and the Ward 6 candidates.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ward 4 Race Offers Stark Contrast

Today's Salem News spotlights the Ward 4 School Committee Race between incumbent Karen Fogarty, and challenger Gail Burke. As we've noted before, the race is the only contested race this year, and the differences couldn't be greater.

Both candidates were defined by the 2008 budget crisis and override campaign that also gave birth to this web site.

Fogarty, a 17-year resident of Beverly with a son currently at Briscoe, quickly became engaged in the issue as a first-term committee member. She studied the proposals, and supported the override "because she felt the city needed additional revenue to provide the best education for its students. 'I felt the time had come to say, Look — we've done a lot, but we can't do more in the parameters we have.'"

She was also personally involved in the redistricting because her own son, then a 5th grader, was redistricted from Cove to Hannah. "I wasn't just giving lip service to an idea and just telling parents they could feel confident," she said about the situation. "I wasn't just saying it because I thought it was true. I lived it, and I knew it was true."

Burke, relatively new to Beverly, and with no children in the school system, became involved when the override (Beverly's first-ever attempt at an override) was proposed. That was the straw that broke the camel's back," she said. "I said, 'You can't keep doing this.' The government has to learn to live within a budget...They can't keep going back to the money tree, which is the people."

This led Burke to found the anti-override group Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, which in addition to leading the opposition to the override, led a late attempt to derail the high-school project, just as it was about to get off the ground.

Looking forward, Fogarty says reviewing curriculum is at the top of her agenda. She is currently the "head of the committee that produces the district's annual report. She wants to strengthen the document to include not just areas of improvement and success, but to highlight scholarships, innovative programs, new technologies and other accomplishments."

She also hopes to continue to be actively involved in the search for a new Superintendent , something she calls a "huge" priority, and an "important moment in our community."

Burke, states that she is also interested in curriculum, particularly citing the Everyday Math program as something that "is not working." She has recently taken her criticism of the curriculum to the pages of the Beverly Citizen, where she penned a letter citing the problems she sees. Her letter spurred a strong response from both the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent saying that Burke has no first-hand knowledge to make these statements, and that she has never even visited a school to see the curriculum in use.

Burke would also like to see a dress code in the schools. "'I'm not talking uniforms,' she said. Rather, she would support appropriate attire, like no belly shirts for girls and no 'pants that are falling off of them,' for boys."

Both candidates have taped segments for BevCam's Conversations with the Candidates series. The schedule is in the post below, or on Bevcam's website.

The election is November 3rd.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hear the Candidates

BevCam (Comcast Channel 10) will be presenting Conversations with the Candidates for School Committee, City Council and Mayor, leading up to the November elections.

There is only one contested School Committee race, and that is in Ward 4, where Karen Fogarty is running for re-election against Gail Burke, the co-founder of Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility. Burke, along with Elliot Margolis (a candidate for City Councilor at Large) led the anti-override campaign in Spring 2008, opposed the new high-school construction, and most recently have been the subject of a tangle (see previous two posts) with the Superitendent and Assistant Superintendent in the pages of The Beverly Citizen over their interpretation of the recent MCAS scores.

The other race of most interest to the schools is the Mayor's race, where incumbent Bill Scanlon faces current City Council member John Burke (no relation to Gail.)

Scanlon ruffled a lot of feathers in 2008 with the "secret plan" that he dropped on the community at a pubic meeting without filling in the Superintendent or School Committee first; as well as his open-mike comments that the Superintendent "was lying throught his teeth." Still, his plan did save the Cove School, and his support and success in getting the high school project off the ground—much of it funded by the state—has won him back much of the school community's support.

Burke, a frequent critic of Scanlon, was the only Council member to vote against the high school project in the end (Don Martin also opposed it in the preliminary vote, but voted in favor once the money had already been spent on design, and state funding was all but assured). Burke also voted against the continuation of the trash fee, which was instrumental in the plan to save Cove.

Another race of interest is former school committee chairman, and frequent school critic George Binns who is challenging Kevin Hobin in Ward 4.

We will try to get a more complete schedule, but the schedule for the above candidates is as as follows:

Karen Fogarty (School Committee Ward 4)
10/15/ at 6:00 PM
10/18 at 7:30 PM
10/21 at 9:00 PM
10/23 at 10:00 AM
10/26 at 2:00 PM
10/28 at 2:00 PM

Gail Burke (School Committee Ward 4)
10/14 at 11:00 AM
10/17 at 6:00 PM
10/20 at 7:30 PM

Bill Scanlon (Mayor)
10/15 at 9:00 PM
10/17at 10:00 AM
10/20 at 2:00 PM

John Burke (Mayor)
10/14/2009 at 10:00 AM
10/17/2009 at 2:00 PM
10/20/2009 at 6:00 PM

Mike Cahill (Councilor at Large)
10/13 at 6:00 PM
10/16 at 7:30 PM
10/19 at 5:55 PM

Elliott Margolis (Councilor at Large)
10/14 at 6:00 PM
10/16 at 10:00 AM
10/19 at 11:00 AM

Pat Grimes (Councilor at Large)
10/15 at 10:01 AM
10/18 at 2:00 PM
10/21 at 6:00 PM

Paul Guanci (Councilor at Large)
10/13at 7:30 PM
10/16 at 9:00 PM
10/21 at 10:00 AM

Bill Coughlin (Councilor at Large)
10/13 at 9:00 PM
10/18 at 10:00 AM
10/21 at 2:00 PM

Kevin Hobin (Ward 4 City Council)
10/14 at 2:00 PM
10/17 at 7:30 PM
10/20 at 9:00 PM

George Binns (Ward 4 City Council)
10/14 at 4:00 PM
10/17 at 9:00 PM
10/19 at 10:01 AM

For a more update schedule, and schedule for other candidates, check

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hayes Also Hits Back at Gail and Elliott

Joining Assistant Superintendent Marie Galinski, whose letter to the Citizen we highlighted last week, Superintendent Hayes has even stronger words for the Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility duo of Elliott Margolis and Gail Burke, who have both built their reputations as critics of the school system on questionable interpretations of the numbers.

In explaining the meaning of the "needs improvement" rating that the district received this year, Hayes writes:

When Gail Burke and Elliott Margolis went to grade school, most likely the passing score for their tests, quizzes, and papers was a minimum score of 60 out of 100. And it probably stayed that way throughout their years in grades 1-12.

Unlike the grading scale for Gail and Elliott, as Massachusetts schools have progressed through the MCAS years from 2001 to the present, the minimum acceptable score, also on a scale of 100 points, has not stayed the same — it increased.

Take math, for instance. In 2001 schools that had a score of 53 or better were judged to be “making AYP,” Adequate Yearly Progress. In 2009 and 2010, schools and school districts must score 84.3 or better to make AYP. In 2011 and 2012, they must score 92.2 or better, and beginning in 2013, they must score a perfect 100. Schools and districts are scored using MCAS results, and the scores are used to determine whether they have met the AYP target. When a school or district doesn’t make AYP for two years in a row, they are labeled “needs improvement”.

Burke (no relation to Mayoral candidate John Burke) is running for School Commitee, and Margolis for City Councilor in the November election.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Galinski Rebuts School Critics

As election season heats up, Assistant Superintendent Marie Galinski has fired back at Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility leaders Eliot Margolis and Gail Burke, who have both penned letters (here and here) critical of the school system to the editor of the Beverly Citizen. Margolis and Burke led the group that opposed to the 2008 school override, and both are candidates for office this fall.

Using some of the same fuzzy statistics that characterized their successful defeat of the override, and unsuccessful attempt to derail the high school project, Margolis and Burke used the recent MCAS scores to claim poor performance and overspending by the schools, and to call for a new superintendent to be brought in from outside the system.

Galinski, a possible candidate for the Superintendent position herself, writes in this week's Citizen explaining the MCAS scores:

Adequate yearly progress [AYP]” is an incredibly complicated process by which schools are judged and unless one understands how to look at the data, it is easy to make a snap judgment that schools are “deficient,” “mediocre,” or “on probation.

The fact is that there are there are 80 different criteria upon which schools are judged each year. If a school misses just one of those criteria, it is deemed not to have made AYP. Those criteria are not just academic, but also include the number of students tested, attendance and graduation rates for aggregate and subgroup populations. All students are held to the same standard, regardless of how academically challenged they are. AYP also measures different groups of students each year.

She also points to some of the positives shown my this year's MCAS scores:

  • Grades 4,5,6,7 and 8 exceed or equal the state performance for advanced and proficient students in English language arts.
  • Grades 4, 5, 7, 8 and 10 have increased their numbers of advanced and proficient students in mathematics this year.
  • Science results in grade 10 have increased by 7 percent for advanced and proficient students and exceed the state performance by 10 percent.
  • Our district maintains a rating of “high” for academic performance in English language arts (90-100 percent proficient) and “moderate” for academic performance in math (80-89 percent proficient).
  • Cohort analysis for students (classes of 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) demonstrates significant growth in English language arts and mathematics.

Galinski then gets a bit personal with Burke, stating "I take issue with the statement of Burke, who has no children in the public schools nor has she visited any of our schools to comment on the use of data to review curriculum or make changes. She has no first hand knowledge to make this statement. Should she desire to gain more information, I would welcome her visit!"

Margolis is running for City Councilor at Large in a race that includes strong school supporters Pat Grimes and Mike Cahill. Grimes was the only Council member to publicly support the override in 2008 and Cahill, who is running for his first term on the Council, spoke out at several of the budget hearings that year in favor of the schools.

Burke, who as Galinski points out has no children in the school system, stood strongly against both the override and the high school project. She is challenging Karen Fogarty, who is running for her second term on the School Commitee from Ward 4.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Stand for Children Holds Meeting

Forty Beverly citizens concerned about education met at the Beverly Public Library on September 15, 2009, from 7 to 8:30 pm. The topic was “Building a Statewide Voice for Children.” The Beverly chapter of Stand for Children, formed in March with 45 members to date, hosted this event to strengthen Beverly’s voice for education reform in the coming year. Our goals are to influence education issues and acquire more funding for Massachusetts school systems through programs such as “Race to the Top,” which makes grant money available to qualifying states.

Featured speaker Shari Cornett, the director of youth workforce initiatives for the North Shore Workforce Investment Board (WIB), gave a presentation on the linkage between education and job opportunities on the North Shore. Cornett emphasized the importance of businesses partnering with school systems and how rewarding those partnerships are to both the businesses and students.

Cornett offered sobering news about the disconnect between the skills and educational paths our students take and the vacant jobs in Massachusetts. With only 21% of Massachusetts college students choosing majors in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), schools are not graduating candidates to fill the computer, architecture, engineering, science, and community and health care jobs that are persistently vacant in Massachusetts. Since these fields also offer the most job growth and security they are vital to a strong local economy. What’s the bottom line for education? “We need to increase graduation rates in the STEM areas,” Cornett said.

Jayne Swart, a leader from Stand for Children’s North Reading chapter, spoke about her experience with Stand and the value it has brought to her community. She spoke of the strong membership in North Reading and issued a challenge to Beverly to beat their numbers.

Other speakers included Beverly chapter team leaders Kris Silverstein, Jim Povey, Julie DeSilva, Andi Freedman, and Deb Ploszay, who shared their personal stories and experiences with Stand and encouraged the audience members to join Stand in order to stay current on education issues in our state. “The threat of cutting teachers, rising class sizes, increasing fees, and cutting vital programs is always looming! The thing is these are issues that everyone is facing, cities like Worcester, Lowell, Gloucester, and North Reading. They share our problems but like us, through Stand, they are making a difference. We know that better schools will not happen on their own and we can’t wait for someone else. It’s up to us!” said Ploszay.

Guests included State Representative Mary Grant; Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon; city councilors Pat Grimes, Wes Slate, and Kevin Hobin; school committee members Annemarie Cesa, Karen Fogarty, and Jim Latter; at-large councilor candidates Michael Cahill and Elliott Margolis; Ward 4 school committee candidate Gail Burke, and School Superintendent Dr. Jim Hayes.

Stand for Children seeks to make children and their needs a higher political priority by building effective local and statewide networks of grassroots advocates capable of convincing elected officials to invest in our children through programs and policies that focus on no more lost ground, efficiencies and cost-savings, long-term funding, and innovation and investment to help all children succeed.

Stand for Children members in Beverly are committed to improving education. To join or learn more information go to or contact organizer Ellie Beck at or or local communications manager Jim Povey at

Thursday, September 17, 2009

State Warns District on MCAS Scores

According to today's Salem News, Beverly was "one of 10 Massachusetts school districts newly flagged by the state because MCAS scores didn't reach federal targets for improvement" in last years results.

In addition to the district warning, Beverly High School, and Centerville Elementary "were also placed on 'needs improvement' status for the first time because low-income and special-education students failed to make the required adequate yearly progress in math and English-language arts for the second year in a row." Ayers and North Beverly already were rated as "needs improvement" in this category, and remain so.

According to the News report:

Schools that don't meet the required test scores are placed on "accountability status," a type of probation. The first level is "needs improvement." If they don't improve after two years, they move to the corrective action category, and eventually, the restructuring category if scores still don't improve.

...overall test scores were either equal to or slightly above the state average in English, particularly the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. Math scores were generally a couple of points below the state average, particularly in eighth grade.

Assistant Superintendent Marie Galinski, speaking for the district responded to the report saying "Even though we were identified for improvement, if you look at our aggregate we have very high scores...It's much more difficult for subgroups to make AYP,Especially when you don't have the resources."

The print edition of the paper also lists the 3rd and 10th grade results for all regional towns.

UPDATE: The Boston Globe has a story on the overall downward trend among Masschusetts schools.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hayes Explains Decision on Obama Speech

Dr Hayes has responded, and provided more details into his reasoning for Beverly not participating in today's presidential speech to the nation's school children:

Deciding to not watch the speech as a live broadcast was a difficult one. I assure you it was not for any political reasons. It is a much more complicated thing to have 4,000+ kids in seven schools in the middle of lunch schedules all watch the same broadcast. We are not equipped with TV's and appropriate settings to make that completely happen, and the interruption to the school day is much more than the 15-20 minutes it may take. Altering the lunch schedule changes the instructional day and adds more salary expense for cafeteria workers. I have no doubt that the President's message was a good one and that the group experience would have been positive. I wish he had chosen to videotape it and provide it to all schools to be used in the opening of their school years. We opened last week, some states opened even earlier, and some area schools still are not open.

Like many other districts, we have encouraged teachers to look at the speech and see if there are places in their curriculum where they could show and discuss it. As I wrote for our website, "downloadable video of the speech will be made available at as well as on will also provide archived and "on-demand" viewing options. Parents have these options for their children to view the video on their own. If teachers review the video and materials and feel there is a place in their curriculum to include these elements, they are encouraged to do so."

Here is a direct link to the President's speech.

Sept., 9 UPDATE: Today's Salem News has a report on Beverly, and other school districts' handling of the speech. The Citizen also has a report, but mainly quotes from Hayes response to Save Beverly Schools.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

District Directive on President's Speech

The following has been posted on the district website.

At 12:00 p.m., Eastern Time (ET), September 8, 2009, President Barack Obama will deliver a national address to the students of America. During this special address, the president will speak directly to the nation’s children and youth about persisting and succeeding in school. The president will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning.

The US Department of Education has notified us of this event and provided suggested curriculum materials that teachers can use. Information is available at

As a district, we will not be participating in this event. Occurring during lunchtime and also taking away from instructional time, it would be too disruptive to the school day. Our schools should remain focused on the district’s curriculum and instructional program. However, downloadable video of the speech will be made available at as well as on will also provide archived and "on-demand" viewing options. Parents have these options for their children to view the video on their own. If teachers review the video and materials and feel there is a place in their curriculum to include these elements, they are encouraged to do so.

We hope that this decision was truly made because of the reasons stated, and was not influenced by the strange political storm swirling around the speech. If you would like to express your feelings on this decision. please contact Superintendent Hayes

Sept. 7 UPDATE: Here is the full text of the President's speech.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Building a Statewide Voice for Children

The new Beverly chapter of Stand for Children will host a presentation next month titled "Building a Statewide Voice for Children" at the Beverly Public Library. Speakers will include Mary Sarris, the Executive Director for the North Shore Workforce Investment Board (WIB).

Significant, positive, and lasting change in education and education funding will not happen unless we join together to fight for state reform. This past March, Beverly started its own Stand for Children chapter. Stand for Children is a grassroots organization dedicated to lasting change in education in Massachusetts and across the country. Being part of Stand gives our kids—who have no voice and no vote—a strong voice at the State House.

There is power in numbers. We know there are many citizens in Beverly who can organize and act on behalf of our kids and future generations’ kids. Please join us!

The presentation will take place Tuesday, September 15 at 7 pm in The Sohier Room at the Beverly Public Library.

For more information please contact Jim Povey or Ivy Hest.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Voluteers Wanted for Superintendent Search

The School Committee seeks 11 volunteers from the community to help in the search for a new Superintendent. Dr Hayes recently announced that he will retire at the end of the next school year.

School Committee President Annemarie Cesa hopes to have a new Superintendent in place by January, so there would be a period of time where he/she could work with Dr Hayes to smooth the transaction.

But, Cesa says, she expectes the competition to be tough, as there are as many as 60 other communities in Massachusetts looking for new Superintendents, including Swampscott and Manchester. The Committee also plans to hire a search firm to help with the process.

If you are interested in serving on the search committee, please contact Annemarie at

The Salem News has further information on the search.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hayes Announces Plans to Retire

Dr. James Hayes, who has served as Beverly Superintendent for the past five years, told the School Committee last night that he will retire when his current contract expires next June. Today's Salem News has the story here, and the Citizen, here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

School Committee Races Shaping Up

Kris Silverstein, a Briscoe and North Beverly parent, PTO member, and co-founder of the Beverly chapter of Stand for Children, has taken out papers to to run for the Ward 3 School Committee slot. Silverstein was active in last Spring's budget and override debate that ended in the closing of McKeown school, and she occasionally contributed to this site during that time.

You can read her press release on the Salem News' Heard in Beverly blog.

The Ward 3 seat became open following Jim Latter's decision to run for the City Council seat being vacated by John Burke, who is challenging Mayor Scanlon.

So far, the only contested seat is in Ward 4, where Gail Burke, who led Citizens for Financial Responsibility (CFR-the group that opposed last Spring's override, and tried to derail the high school construction this past fall), will challenge Karen Fogarty, who is in her first term as Ward 4 rep.

On the City Council side, outspoken school supporter Pat Grimes (who was the only Council member to publicly support the override), and Mike Cahill, (who, as a private citizen spoke out at several of last Spring budget hearings), along with current rep Bill Coughlin, former Council President Paul Guinci, and Eliot Margolis, (the other leader of CFR), are running for the three Councilor at Large seats. The top vote-getter automatically becomes Council President.

CFR is also running candidates in several of the Ward contests.

Today's Salem News has a rundown on all the races

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More Old Schools

The previous post got us thinking about the rich history of old school buildings in Beverly. The Beverly Public Library has a great collection of old postcards on Flickr showing many of these buildings (as well as some old class photos). It's interesting to note as we get ready to tear down the 1960's era high school that both of its predecessors are still very much alive, (as Briscoe Middle School, and the Oceanview senior living facility on Essex Street). The site is interesting viewing for anyone interested in the history of Beverly schools.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Something Old and Something New

Both the city's oldest and newest school buildings were the focus of attention this past week.

Briscoe Middle School, built in 1923, and originally the city's high school, received some much needed landscaping attention, thanks to a volunteer effort led by Briscoe parent Kathy Whitehair.

Whitehair, and dozens of volunteers of all ages spent Saturday muching, planting, weeding, and watering. In addition to the volunteers working in the field, many others donated toward the trees, shrubs, and plants the were used in the project.

Yesterday's Salem News had details on the effort.

The landscape mirrors the original design plans from when the school was built in 1923, said mother Kathy Whitehair, one of the volunteers leading the effort. Through fundraisers and donations, they were able to plant everything from Virginia sweetspire shrubs, which turn a deep scarlet in the fall; to Kousa Dogwood trees, which bloom creamy white flowers in the summer; to hardy, dark green boxwood bushes.

The highlight, Whitehair said, are six American elm trees planted along Colon Street. They were each donated by all five of the elementary schools and McKeown, which closed last year as an elementary school and reopened as an alternative secondary school. The line of trees has been named "Elementary Way."

The next step is to bring in new granite planters, benches and more attractive trash cans, and to install nicer-looking bike racks. The landscaping project is only the beginning.

"It will build spirit and pride," Whitehair said. "And people can take ownership in their middle school."

Meanwhile, up the road a ways, the new Beverly High School reachced a milestone on Monday. The final beam of the new structure was put into place before a small crowd of onlookers. It was painted white and signed by high school class officers. On the right flew an American flag, to symbolize good luck, and on the left balanced a small pine tree, to symbolize that nobody was injured during the construction.

Today's Salem News reports on this milestone in the $80 million project:

"This is so much better than putting the shovel in the ground in the beginning," said Tim Liporto, director of buildings and grounds. "Now, you see something."

School Committee member Karen Fogarty said when you have such a large project, it's important to acknowledge each small step as it takes place.

"It's a chunk that's now done," she said.

[Project Manager Al] Calcagno said work will now focus on the interior of the building. They'll finish the floors and walls and continue with the plumbing and electrical infrastructure. The building is scheduled to be complete by the fall of 2010.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Help Green Up Briscoe Tomorrow

Community Green-Up Day
Saturday, May 16th, 2009
9:00 - 4:00 (Rain Date Sunday, May 17)

Green-Up Day at Briscoe is a coordinated effort to implement a formal and sustainable landscaping design to best enhance Briscoe's classic architecture and make the grounds as inviting as possible, while meeting true middle school needs. Thoughtful modifications will accentuate the unique details of the engravings, veterans’ memorials and fa├žade of this 86 year old landmark. Already, 9 new trees have been donated to the effort, including American Elms given by our elementary schools and individual families. Many more items remain on the wish list

Anyone who is interested in rolling up their sleeves and lending a hand is welcomed to join in. We have in place a very clear landscaping and grounds improvement plan but we need YOUR help to make it a reality!

Bring your kids, your friends, your gloves, your water bottle and your LABELED yard tools. Get ready to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty to make Briscoe as beautiful as possible! Stay for an hour or for the whole day. Drop in and out between sporting and other commitments.

Want to help but can’t be on site? Consider making a contribution to be used towards fulfilling the improvement plan’s specific wish list. We will gladly accept checks or gift certificates to local greenhouses such as Leonard’s, Sweeney’s, Ward’s, Chapman’s, Corliss, Northeast Nursery, or where ever you shop. Send to

Briscoe PTO,
7 Sohier Road,
(checks payable to Briscoe PTO, “Grounds” in memo). !

Some wish list items :
Junipers ($100 each),
assorted trees ($200 each),
classic trash receptacle ($250),
bench ($400),
or any amount toward a wish list item!


Questions contact Kathy Whitehair (978-922-4508)

Parents Speak Out on FY10 Budget

With little of the drama of last year's budget process, parents spoke out about the FY10 budget Wednesday night at North Beverly School.

While relieved that the process seems to be going much smoother this year, parents still had their concerns.

Parent Julie DeSilva, former president of the now closed McKeown school, spoke for many. "Compared to last year, do a few big classes look as bad as losing a school? No. But it's a bad trend. All the numbers are going in the wrong direction."

Yesterday's Salem News had details from the meeting.

Class sizes were the primary focus of their concern. A proposed first-grade classroom of 24 students and a fifth-grade classroom of 29 are each just one student away from the maximum set by the School Committee.

Parents urged [Superintendent Jim] Hayes to rethink those classes, saying, even if they're not yet over the maximum, it still puts a strain on teachers.

"The demands on your average teacher have increased," DeSilva said.

Mother Corinne Eanes said her daughter would be in the crowded fifth-grade class.

"All it takes is that one child who needs that extra attention to pull away from the other 28 kids," she said. "I really believe 29, and 24 for the first-graders, is way too many."

Among the positive developments, according to Hayes were "plans to reinstate the instrumental music program in the elementary schools, to add a part-time reading specialist at Cove Elementary School, to add a nurse assistant so the nurse supervisor can focus on professional medical development, which has become more of a need in the school system, and to expand technology support roles."

Monday, May 4, 2009

Public Hearing on FY10 Budget

Dr. Hayes has presented a final draft budget to the School Committee, and scheduled a public hearing for Tuesday May 12th. The latest budget shows only a $158,330 shortfall, but there is still some uncertainty on the funding from the state, and on some expenses. Dr Hayes explains some of this in the following note from the Admin website. We will add any further explanation, as we get it:

For those who are interested in the district budget for next year, the latest information has been added to the Administration webpage. Presented to the School Committee on April 29th, the Draft Budget reflects a shortfall of $158,330. A copy of the budget may also be obtained at the Superintendent's Office in the Memorial Building.

The Public Hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, May 12th, at 7 PM at a site to be determined.

The budget extracts all the items and expenses related to revolving accounts. These are identified in the Draft with shaded lines and the revolving account titles below the specific account from which expenses were shifted to a revolving account. By doing this for all revolving accounts, the remaining budget only includes those expenses being paid out of the General Fund, i.e., the City's contribution plus Chapter 70. While this arrangement makes it more complicated in understanding our complete program, it is done so that we comply with proper accounting procedures.

Using the same shaded line with "SPED Stimulus Grant" as a title, we have identified $366,000 of expenses which we will cover using the federal Stimulus money provided for Special Education. This appears to be about the limit of what we can cover using Stimulus funds, including SPED and Title I.

There is still some uncertainty surrounding expenses and revenues. Specifically, we still need to learn more from the state legislature. We also need to learn more about enrollments in the preschool and kindergarten programs as well as projected enrollments in grades 1 through 5. Amounts for entitlement grants such as Special Education and Tile I have not been announced. And we still need some time before it is realistic to estimate any surplus for FY09. Following the Public Hearing, the School Committee will meet again to discuss the budget on Wednesday, May 27th.

11:00 PM UPDATE: For those who have been following the stages of this year's budget, and wonder how the previous estimated shortfall of $931,881 was reduced to $158,330, Dr Hayes explains, as follows:

At the March 25th School Committee Meeting of the Whole, a projected budget was shown with a shortfall of $931,881. That gap has been significantly reduced to $158,330. A small part of that reduction has been achieved by purchasing textbooks this year rather than next for Foreign Language programs in the Middle and High schools. The amount of this cut was $25,000.

The school district has been very fortunate this year in the special education tuition out accounts. Last year, we carried over one Circuit Breaker Payment ($318,811) which offset a portion of Collaborative tuitions for FY09. In addition, not all the private schools increased their tuitions as had been previously expected and budgeted and the district special education student population changed in our favor (i.e., children moving to other states). Also, because of the diligence of the special education department, there were many favorable cost shares negotiated with other agencies which helped to offset costs.

Currently, the projected surplus in special education will be $615,442 (the last two Circuit Breaker payments). This reduction is shown in the Collaborative tuition account SP 860 62910.

Changes in Early Elementary programs and declining elementary enrollments have led to cutting two elementary teacher positions and moving a third salary to a Special Education grant. The net salary reduction is $184,967.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Latest on the FY10 Budget

We have updated the City Documents list on the left with the FY10 draft budgets that have been released so far, including the most recent, which was presented to the School Committee on March 25th.

Below is a letter from Dr. Hayes that is posted on the Adminstration website that explains the status of the budget in more detail:

For those who are interested in the district budget for next year, the latest information has been added to the Administration webpage. Presented to the School Committee on March 25th, the Draft Budget includes the new estimate for local contribution provided to us by Mayor Scanlon. Thus we now show a shortfall. The budget document is done as a spreadsheet, so if you are looking for explanations of specific accounts, you will need to refer to the Initial Draft, presented February 4th.

The budget extracts all the items and expenses related to revolving accounts. These are identified in the Draft with shaded lines and the revolving account titles below the specific account from which expenses were shifted to a revolving account. By doing this for all revolving accounts, the remaining budget only includes those expenses being paid out of the General Fund, i.e., the City's contribution plus Chapter 70. While this arrangement makes it more complicated in understanding our complete program, it is done so that we comply with proper accounting procedures. You may find it helpful to look at the Revolving Account document before looking at the Draft Budget so that you get a better sense of what this means.

Using the same shaded line with "SPED Stimulus Grant" as a title, we have identified $366,000 of expenses which we will cover using the federal Stimulus money provided for Special Education. This appears to be about the limit of what we can cover using Stimulus funds, including SPED and Title I.

In order to bring the shortfall under $1 million, I made several cuts to several Special Education tuition accounts, dropping tuition estimates from 4.5% to 3.0% increases, and dropping the SPED contingency from $270,000 to $170,000. While these cuts add more risk for FY10, we think they are prudent given recent patterns and the circumstances with which we are faced.

I have made no other cuts to the proposal. We still need to learn more from the state legislature. We need to learn more about the use of Stimulus funds and how they still might help us reduce our shortfall. And we need another month before it is realistic to estimate any surplus for FY09. The School Committee meets again to discuss the budget on Wednesday, April 29th.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Greening of Briscoe

The Build a Better Briscoe's Green Team and the entire Beverly community are initiating a revitalization project at the Briscoe grounds this spring.

There will be a Green Team/Phase 1 Effort at Briscoe on Wednesday, April 15th from 3:30-5:00 pm and a day-long community Green Team/Phase 2 Effort at Briscoe on Saturday, May 16th.

Students from 5th grade classrooms throughout Beverly are invited and encouraged to help as part of a fifth grade service effort. In fact, anyone who is interested in rolling up their sleeves and lending a hand is welcomed to join in. Beds will be worked to improve the existing soil and many other environmentally friendly tasks will be addressed.

Trees, shrubs and perennials will be planted once the soil is amended. The City of Beverly supports this effort and will be involved. A landscaping plan is being developed from which the need for specific plantings and supplies for the revitalization will be generated.

We will post these needs as soon as possible. Any individuals and groups who would like to consider making donations of time and tender should contact Kathy Whitehair (978-922-4508) or Caryn Gallagher.

Stay tuned for more information!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

FY10 Budget to be Presented

Dr. Hayes will be presenting a revised draft budget for FY10 to the School Committee at its meeting of the Whole scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday) evening. The revenue picture for the City and the School District has altered significantly since the first draft of the proposed budget was presented in November and since it's previous revision in January.

While the district is still awaiting definitive revenue numbers from the Commonwealth, this latest draft of the proposed budget will give everyone some idea of the challenges we expect to have before us.

The meeting will take place at 7:00 p.m. in the conference room in the Memorial Building.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Beverly Launches Stand for Children Chapter

Last week, a group of more than 50 parents, elected officials, and concerned citizens gathered to launch Beverly’s new chapter of Stand for Children, the statewide education advocacy group. Meeting at the Beverly Public Library, the attendees heard from a Stand for Children leader from Gloucester, Roger Garberg, who shared Gloucester’s experiences of advocating for public schools, and Chris Gabrieli, chairman of Mass2020, a nonprofit group leading the initiative for expanded learning time. Gabrieli spoke boldly about the need for change in how we view education and how we fund education.

Garberg struck a chord with the parents in the group when he talked about explaining to his 7-year-old daughter where he was going. “Once again I am going to talk with people who are working to make your school and all schools better,” he told her. A simple message that contains important meaning: “Every child in our town and across Massachusetts has the same right to high quality education. This is not a matter of providing school choice for some. This is a matter of providing choice schools for everyone. This right is only assured by active collaborations among neighbors, friends, school committees, city councils, and state legislators.”

“The children of this generation need to be prepared to compete in a global workforce. They need the skills and technology that will enable them to be part of a world that is bigger than the one we knew as students. In 2003/2004, Massachusetts led the nation in cutting state aid to education. Our schools have never recovered. The more adults stand together for children, the more lawmakers will support programs and reforms that give all kids an equal opportunity for education,” said Kris Silverstein, a leader of the Beverly Stand for Children chapter.

“We need to harness the positive and palpable energy around education in Beverly. . . . Having a Stand chapter means that we will be linked into their network with access to information from other communities, calendars with key dates of happenings at the State House, and opportunities to be involved at the most basic level or in a leadership role. We will have a seat at the table with people who want to help shape the direction of education in Massachusetts and beyond,” said Julie DeSilva, another chapter leader.

“We all agree, our kids get one shot at being a first grader, or a third grader, or an eighth grader and we want that year to be all that it should be,” said chapter leader Deb Ploszay. She ended the evening with a quote from President Obama: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Stand for Children is a statewide voice for children, with active members in more than 70 communities in Massachusetts. Group members will gather on Tuesday, March 24 for a State House rally. Click here to get involved or to learn more about the rally.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Stand for Children

Significant, positive, and lasting change in education and education funding will not happen at the local level. There are many like-minded and energized folks in Beverly who are frustrated about their ability to stay informed and make a difference.

To that end many Beverly citizens have attended different Stand for Children events over the past four years, most recently a Stand conference held in Reading a few weeks ago. Stand for Children is a grassroots organization dedicated to lasting change in education in Massachusetts and across the country.

We are interested in creating a Stand for Children chapter here in Beverly to give our kids—who have no voice and no vote—a big Beverly voice at the State House and beyond.

On Thursday, March 12 at 7 pm there will be a Stand for Children presentation titled What’s Next? Advocating for Education in Beverly and Beyond in The Sohier Room at the Beverly Public Library.

Speakers will include Chris Gabrieli, former gubernatorial candidate, and chairman of Massachusetts 2020, a group dedicated to expanding the economic and educational opportunities for children and families across Massachusetts.

Leaders from other Stand for Children chapters in Massachusetts will also speak.

There is power in numbers. The events of the last year show that there is a large group of citizens in Beverly who can organize and act on behalf of our kids and future generations’ kids. Please join in this conversation. We need to make sure that we keep the momentum going after last year’s difficult but community-building series of events.

For more information please contact Julie DeSilva.

3/5 UPDATE: Today's Salem News has the story.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Schools Hanging On

City education leaders last night night presented the State of the Schools address at Briscoe auditorium. While acknowledging the"tumultuous"period of the last few years that have seen the closing of two schools, and tremendous uncertainty ahead in terms of state and city finances, the message was still somewhat positive.

Dr Hayes and School Committee President Annemarie Cesa said that the schools have managed to preserve more programs than our neighbors, make steady progress on increasing test scores, and have broken ground on a new state-of-the-art high school. Hayes also pointed to the positive effects of partnerships and donations from local businesses and individuals.

In spite of it all, the city still delivers a quality, and "progressive" education, he said.

The Superintendent also asked for patience in developing next years budget, saying that most of the expenses are known, but state funding and any affects from the federal stimulus package are still in flux.

Today's Salem News has more details.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

State of the Schools Reminder

Just a reminder that on Thursday, January 29th the Citywide PTO will sponsor the annual State of the Schools Address at the Briscoe Middle School. The evening will begin with a coffee at 6:30 p.m. followed by speeches and presentations at 7:30. All are welcome to attend. (Snow date is 2-5-09)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Elementaries Get Smart

State of the art smartboards have begun to be installed in every classroom in all five elementary schools this week, thanks to the overwhelming generosity of Beverly resident and BHS grad Mike Pascucci.

Pascucci, a 1980 BHS grad, and former football team captain, is also the man behind the Pascucci computer lab at Centerville, the Briscoe Middle School computer lab, and last year's donation of laptops for foreign language and reading classes at Briscoe.

The gift was detailed at last week's School Committee meeting, which one member called "the best School Committee meeting ever" and is also the subject of a story in today's Salem News:

The boards are a relatively new touch-screen technology that teachers can connect to their computers. They come with pens so teachers can write on them like a regular whiteboard, but they also have software that converts writing into text, interacts with students by having them touch the screen and pull up maps or graphs, and saves everything.

"It engages students more," [technology director Judy] Miller said. "Students who are visual learners will benefit tremendously, and it gives teachers the ability to save lessons and digitalize materials."

That's just the basics, Miller said. Teachers will go through a general training program during the school year and will have the option to do more rigorous training over the summer. The boards are capable of a tremendous amount and will have an enormous impact on education, she said.

"In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would be here talking about smart boards in every classroom," Miller said.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Hayes Comments on Teacher Contract

Dr. Hayes has asked us to post the following note, which he also sent to Salem News, Beverly Citizen, and the School Committee. The note is in response to a request by the Salem paper to release terms of the teachers contract that was ratified by the teachers on Tuesday, but has yet to be voted on by the School Committee. The Committee is scheduled to take a vote on January 14th.

As you know, I have been asked by the Salem News to release to the press the terms of our Tentative Agreement with Unit A Teachers. The Agreement was ratified by the teachers on January 6th and the School Committee is scheduled to vote on January 14th. I will not release the Agreement or confirm any of its terms prior to the School Committee ratification vote. My decision to do so has absolutely nothing to do with the terms of the agreement. I believe it is a fair contract to both the teachers and the City. My decision has everything to do with preserving the process for negotiating contracts for our school system, now and in the future.

The negotiation of contracts is legally conducted in complete confidence between the two parties. That process only concludes when both parties agree to the terms presented. The parties in this case are the Beverly Teachers Association and the Beverly School Committee. If one of the parties does not ratify the terms of the agreement, then the parties will return to the bargaining table. The subsequent negotiations in accordance with the ground rules would not be conducted in public. That I believe the School Committee will vote to ratify this Agreement is of no consequence. As Superintendent, I need to preserve a process for the proper, effective, and legal negotiations of collective bargaining agreements. To release or confirm any information prior to the School Committee vote sets a bad precedent for our school district.

Dr. Jim Hayes
Superintendent of Schools>

1/10 UPDATE: Today's Salem News reports that it is appealing to the state supervisor of public records to obtain the contract that the union ratified Tuesday.

"The public should have the maximum amount of information possible about how citizen-elected representatives are spending money relayed to them by taxpayers," said Salem News attorney Robert Bertsche.

Hayes' note above states his reasons for not releasing the terms, in order to preserve "the process for negotiating contracts for our school system, now and in the future", but Bertsche said there's no reason why releasing the information would hinder negotiations.

"The public records law doesn't say you have to keep it confidential," he said.

1/13 UPDATE: Today's Salem News has an editorial on the controversy.