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.

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 www.stand.org/ma or contact organizer Ellie Beck at ebeck@stand.org or or local communications manager Jim Povey at cptpovey@yahoo.com

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 http://www.whitehouse.gov/mediaresources/ as well as on www.ed.gov. C-SPAN.org 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 http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/academic/bts.html.

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 http://www.whitehouse.gov/mediaresources/ as well as on www.ed.gov. C-SPAN.org 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.