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, 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.