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, January 28, 2010

FY11 School Budget Shows $3 Million Gap

The Citywide PTO and school leaders went to great pains tonight to present some of the positive developments in the Beverly schools, going so far as rebranding tonight's presentation, An Evening of Accomplishments. Speakers, ranging from Superintendent Hayes to School Committee President Cesa, to representatives from each of the schools celebrated the successes of the past year, including a progress report on the high school.

Still, the stunning announcement that the preliminary school budget numbers show a $3 million shortfall will no doubt be tomorrow's Salem News headline, and the main topic of conversation in the school community. The graphic below tells the bleak story.

How do we find ourselves at this point again, after closing two schools in the past four years?

That is the question we will have to confront again over the next few months as we once again attempt to deal with the realities of the situation. As we did in 2008, we will again aim to make this site the go to place for information.

We have posted both of tonight's Powerpoint presentations. Dr. Hayes' presentation details the progress of the high school, explains how technology is being integrated into the education process, presents other relevant statistics, and talks about increased government mandates, and shrinking budgets. He praises the system's successes in the face of all these challenges, saying he is "Amazed with the progress we are making with such limited resources," before presenting what may be the biggest challenge yet.

The other presentation, which Asst. Superintendent Galinski gave tonight, is titled Accountability & Assessment. It explains in detail the MCAS rating system, what is meant by "Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP),” the challenges posed by the system, and where Beverly rates.

We invite other regular contributors and readers of this blog to add further details we may have missed in the comments section below this post, and always welcome any and all input into the site.

1/29 UPDATE: Here is the Salem News take on last night's presentation.

The presentation was filmed by BevCam. We are awaiting word as to when it will be shown.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Early Word on FY11 Budget Not Pretty

Today's Salem News details the city's Financial Forcasting Committee report, which was released last week, and shows a $3.75 million budget gap for the overall city budget for the next fiscal year. The report also shows projected deficits of $5.75 million by 2013.

The story doesn't mention the schools' share of this gap, but the report itself, which is available on the city's website (see page 18), suggests that a substantial part of the gap, and and resultant cuts we assume, may fall on the schools. The report shows the schools' forecast for FY11 at $2.6 million dollars, or 5.9%, over the appropriated budget.

According to the News' story:

"This forecast requires significant policy decisions to reduce spending," the report says. "In other words, a plan to allow for community input and participation to determine service reductions most likely in combination with new revenue decisions."

The report lists a variety of options to close the gaps, from cutting services to negotiating a reduction in employee raises to adopting the local option meals tax....

...Steve Cohen, one of the citizen representatives on the forecasting committee, said the city should focus "not just on cuts but on expanding revenue."

"It will take some guts and hard work, but it will pay off far more than impoverishing the community with cuts in education and services," he told the City Council.

None of this should come as a complete surprise to anyone who followed the 2008 budget crisis, high school project negotiations, or recent city elections; or read earlier forecasts which predicted numbers in this range more than two years ago.

While tomorrow night's State of the Schools (now titled An Evening of Accomplishments) has been rebranded to accentuate the positive, and not focus as much on preliminary budget numbers, Superintendent Hayes said he'll do his best to provide a preliminary financial outlook.

A story in yesterday's Salem News explains' the change in focus of the annual presentation.

... in today's economy, most people are aware of the decline in state funding each year, and the concrete numbers that determine program cuts and layoffs usually aren't available until March, said Paula Colahan, president of the Citywide Parent-Teacher Organization, which hosts the annual event.

"State of the Schools can give the impression we have some budget information," Colahan said, "and we never do. We haven't for the last five years."

However, Superintendent James Hayes said he'll do his best to provide a financial outlook anyway, in about 15 minutes.

"That still is my responsibility," he said. "I think I'll be able to characterize it."

The presentation will be held Thursday evening from 7:30- 9:00 at the Briscoe Middle School auditorium. Refreshments and coffee reception will be held from 6:30 to 7:30.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Race to the Top

Beverly has joined with over 250 other Massachustts district, regional and charter schools in support of the state's participation in President Obama's Race to the Top program.

"Race to the Top" is a competitive $4.35 billion grant program launched by the Obama Administration to assist states in implementing aggressive education reform strategies to turn around low performing schools and support world-class teaching and learning. Approximately 40 states are expected to apply for the funding. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Massachusetts is eligible for approximately $250 million.

To participate, districts were required to submit an MOU [Memorandums of Understanding] signed by the superintendent, school committee chair, and union leader. If the state is awarded the grant in April, participating districts will have 90 days to submit work plans detailing how they will use their funding to implement four required activities: (1) Improve teacher and principal effectiveness; (2) Ensure effective teachers and leaders in every classroom; (3) Turn around the lowest achieving schools (only for districts with Level 4 or 5 schools under the state's new accountability system); and (4) Use data to improve instruction. Participating districts may also choose to implement two additional activities: Roll out a statewide P-12 teaching and learning system and increase college and career readiness.

The state's Race to the Top application focuses on four key initiatives:

  • Developing and retaining an effective, academically capable, diverse, and culturally competent educator workforce
  • Providing curricular and instructional resources that support teacher effectiveness and success for all students
  • Concentrating great instruction and supports for educators, students, and families in our lowest performing schools
  • Increasing our focus on college and career readiness for all students

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Superintendent Focus Group Report

The district has posted the results of the Superintendent search focus groups that were held last month. It's an interesting read on the immediate priorities of the school district, as seen by the community.

The report was prepared by Ken DeBenedictis, search consultant from NESCEC (The New England School Development Council) following last month’s focus group meetings. The information contained in the report is a presentation of the qualities and characteristics the community (school and city) seeks in our next superintendent as well as issues that they perceive need to be addressed by the new superintendent in the first six months.

The Salem News ran a summary of the report last week.

Friday, January 8, 2010

An Evening of Accomplishments

That's the new, more uplifting title of the annual State of the Schools presentation.

This year's presentation will feature Superintendent Jim Hayes, Assistant Superintendent Marie Galinski, School Committee President Annemarie Cesa, and speakers from all 7 city schools.

The program will take place on Thursday, January 28 at the Briscoe Auditorium. Refreshments will be served between 6:30 and 7:30, and the formal presentation will take place from 7:30-9:00

Snow date is February 5th.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

School Committee and City Council Contacts

Below is updated School Committee and City Council contact information. The new term started last week. Changes include Kris Silverstein replacing Jim Latter on the School Commitee, and Latter, along with Paul Guanci and Mike Cahill new members of the City Council. Cahill is the new City Council President.

School Committee
Member Ex Officio
His Honor, Mayor Bill Scanlon
5 Whitman Place
mayor@beverlyma.govThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

David Manzi, Ward 1
34 Roderick Avenue
dmanzigoldcoast@aol.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Paul A. Manzo, Ward 2
89 Lovett Street
p.manzo@comcast.netThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Kris Silverstein,Ward 3
44 Longmeadow Road
ksilverstein@beverlyschools.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Karen Fogarty,Ward 4
169 E. Lothrop Street
karenfogarty@comcast.netThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Annemarie Cesa, Ward 5
290 Essex Street
acesa@beverlyschools.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Maria T. Decker, Ward 6
11 Wentworth Drive

City Council
Michael P. Cahill, At-Large, President
28 Foster Drive

Paul M. Guanci, At-Large
54 Cross Lane

Patricia Grimes, At-Large
26 Old Town Road

Maureen Troubetaris, Ward 1
20-A Davis Road

Wesley Slate, Jr., Ward 2
26 Lothrop Street

James F. Latter, Ward 3
145 Park Street

Kevin Hobin, Ward 4
6 Gardner Street

Donald Martin, Ward 5
27 Berrywood Lane

Judith Cronin, Ward 6
33 Middlebury Lane

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"State of the Schools" Scheduled

The annual “State of the Schools” presentation, sposored by the Citywide PTO will be held on Thursday, January 28th at 7:00 p.m. in the Briscoe auditorium. Snow date is February 5th. More details to follow.