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, 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.

No comments: